Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bryant, Levi R. Review of David Couzens Hoy's THE TIME OF OUR LIVES. NDPR (September 2009).

Hoy, David Couzens. The Time of Our Lives: a Critical History of Temporality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. If one were to cite one set of issues that distinguishes the Continental philosophy of the last century from prior philosophy, a red thread uniting movements as disparate as Frankfurt school critical theory, German and French phenomenology, and French post-structuralism, it would be no exaggeration to cite the focus of these philosophical movements on issues revolving around time and temporality. To be sure, Aristotle had reflected on the nature of time in his Physics, just as Augustine presented a profound meditation on the nature of time in his Confessions. Moreover, attempts to conceptualize the nature of time have never been absent in the history of philosophy. However, never before had questions of time been given the centrality, the pride of place, they took on in the Continental philosophy of the last century. Here questions of time were no longer treated as an ancillary issue, belonging perhaps to philosophical physics. To the contrary, what was new in the Continental thought of the last century was a sense that questions of time and temporality lay at the heart of questions of ontology, epistemology, philosophy of mind, ethics, and political theory. The twentieth-century philosophical literature surrounding questions of time and temporality is vast, eclectic, complicated, and difficult. It is hard to see, for example, what might unite the historical meditations of quasi critical theorists such as Walter Benjamin with the phenomenological investigations of temporality carried out by Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. It is for this reason that David Couzens Hoy's The Time of Our Lives is such a welcome contribution to the philosophical literature surrounding questions of temporality. Written in a lively and exceptionally clear style, Hoy's book is wide ranging, lucidly discussing the theories of time and temporality developed by Kant, Nietzsche, Bergson, James, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu, Derrida, Deleuze, Benjamin, and Žižek. Hoy successfully manages to put these thinkers, so diverse in their methodologies and preoccupations, in dialogue with one another, staging a theater of ideas revolving around the role that temporality plays in our self-relation, the sense of our lives, and questions of politics and ethics. However, it would be a mistake to imagine that his book is simply a catalogue of theories of temporality, presenting the reader with a convenient series of commentaries on what this or that thinker has said about temporality. Hoy's book, the first volume of a history of consciousness, is an excellent resource for the student or scholar seeking some orientation within the bewildering labyrinth of Continental thought surrounding questions of temporality. This first volume deals with time and time-consciousness; the second will deal with self-consciousness. Hoy's provocative thesis, contra Kant and Husserl, is that temporality precedes the self-relation of self-consciousness, and is therefore prior to the self and mind. . . . Read the rest here:

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