Volume 48, Issue 2, Summer 2018
E. Eugene Kleist
Phenomenology’s Constitutive Paradox
Meillassoux on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on Schelling
I provide a phenomenological response to Quentin Meillassoux’s “realist” criticism of phenomenology and I explore the resources and limits of phenomenology in its own attempt to grapple with the paradox Meillassoux believes sinks it: subjectivity has priority over the physical reality it constitutes despite the anteriority and posteriority of that physical reality to subjectivity. I first offer a corrective to Meillassoux’s interpretation of Husserl. Then, I turn to Merleau-Ponty’s lectures on the philosophy of nature, where he addresses the paradox by interpreting Husserl in the light of Schelling. I argue throughout that the correct understanding of Husserl’s concept of constitution, and particularly, passive constitution, defangs this realist criticism of phenomenology and suggests phenomenology to be capable of a Naturphilosophie intimating pre-reflective being. The prime instance of this pre-reflective being is subjectivity’s entanglement with a reality that encompasses it.