Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Peucker, Henning. Review of Joaquim Siles i Borras, THE ETHICS OF HUSSERL'S PHENOMENOLOGY. NDPR (March 2011).

Siles i Borràs, Joaquim.  The Ethics of Husserl's Phenomenology: Responsibility and Ethical LifeLondon: Continuum, 2010.

First the bad news: this book is not, as the reader might well expect on the basis of its title, a book on Husserl's ethics. Joaquim Siles i Borràs does not investigate Husserl's ethics and does not even take into account the two volumes in the Husserliana series containing the majority of Husserl's ethical writings (28 and 37), which incidentally have not yet been translated into English. Instead, this book investigates the hidden ethos or moral attitude that underlies Husserl's phenomenology as a whole and its development. Thus, Siles i Borràs understands ethics not simply as dealing with moral normativity, but rather in a much broader sense. As a result, he attempts to show that Husserl's phenomenological epistemology in general and its basic methodological principle of presuppositionlessness in particular have ethical relevance. This basic principle calls for radical freedom from prejudice and dogmatism as an ethical demand, a demand that the later Husserl combines with an ideal of absolute and universal self-responsibility. Thus Siles i Borràs sees phenomenology as ultimately grounded in an ethical attitude of reflective self-responsibility. Ethics is therefore not secondary to epistemology but founds it on the basis of an ethical demand of rigor and radical self-responsibility. The thesis of this book is that this ethical demand -- it would perhaps be better to speak about the ethos of the phenomenological philosophy than of its ethics -- guides Husserl's work and drives its development of increasing radicalization from beginning to end. This leads Siles i Borràs to a set of slightly ambiguous claims, viz., that phenomenology (i) is "an ethical project" (5), (ii) is an "ethical life" (18, 49), (iii) is an "ethical inquiry" (19, 30) or -- perhaps most precisely -- (iv) is motivated by an ethical demand (19). . . .


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