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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Hating in the First Person Plural: Psychoanalytic Essays on Racism, Homophobia, Misogyny, and Terror by Donald Moss (Other Press) In introducing this collection of 13 recently published essays, Moss argues that psychoanalytic thinking can help us understand such forms of hatred as terrorism. E.g., one contributor probes how dis-identification with the other blocks comprehension of such acts as the September 11, 2001 attacks. Others analyze actual or literary case studies.

Excerpt: "As if the soul's fullness didn't sometimes overflow into the empties of meta­phors, for no one, ever, can give the exact measure of his needs, his appre­hensions, or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked cauldron on which we bang out tunes that make bears dance, when we want to move the stars to pity." —Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

No doubt one is a wretched plebeian, harassed by debts and military service; but, to make up for it, one is a Roman citizen, one has one's share in the task of ruling other nations and dic­tating their laws. This identification of the suppressed classes with the class who rules and exploits them is, however, only part of a larger whole. For, on the other hand, the suppressed classes can be emotionally attached to their masters; in spite of their hostility to them they may see in them their ideals; unless such relations of a fundamentally satisfying kind subsisted, it would be impossible to understand how a number of civilizations have survived so long in spite of the justifiable hostility of large human masses. [Freud 1927, p. 13]

Freud makes this direct, clear, impassioned interpretation from a perspective in which the clinical, social, and political are seamlessly and inexorably united as both a tool of and object for analysis. Of course, in this representative passage, Freud offers us a radical analy­sis. I say "of course" because the analysis is unhindered by debts to the social and subjective fields it scrutinizes. Such debt is often paid in the coin of sentiment. Freud can afford to unsentimentally con­ceptualize the brutal vicissitudes of sexuality and aggression. His conclusions cannot help but be radical. Psychoanalytic thinking is, at minimum, thought systematically shorn of the seductions of sen­timent. As such, psychoanalysis burdens us with a theoretical appa­ratus capable of illuminating, as none before it had, the interrelated workings of power, inertia, and desire.

More than ever, misery rules; for almost all of us, the luxury of common human unhappiness remains unavailable. Freud's voice, though radical, is quiet. He neither apologizes for overreaching nor moralizes over his triumphs of insight. I intend the essays in this book to commemorate that voice, both its audacious vision and its humane project.

As we ominously begin this century, thought spurred by con-temporary urgency circulates through increasingly wide and open channels while the cultural reach of psychoanalytic discourse seems to narrow. Psychoanalysts are no longer included among the ones asked: "Why war?" Our theory and practice risk becoming the precious preserve of the precious few and therefore increasingly irrelevant to the culture's clinical and social emergencies.

And yet, psychoanalysis continues to offer unprecedented and unsurpassed access to the dynamics of those emergencies, to his­tory's ruling passions, wherever they are housed and however they are expressed. The theory has only been present for 100 years. For good reasons and bad, its recent performance has been sluggish. It has been both oversold and underutilized. Its currently marginal status seems not inevitable, but rather the product of historical contingencies. Those contingencies can be illuminated, interpreted, and reconfigured. It is still possible to imagine psychoanalytic thought contributing its strategic and tactical heft to brake the revved-up, violent machinery ravaging our public and private spaces. It is still possible to imagine psychoanalytic thinkers, weath­ered by experience, participating as citizen/clinicians in a widespread and vigorous pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness—a popu­list, and therefore a potentially popular, psychoanalysis.

Equality and Diversity: Phenomenological Investigations of Prejudice and Discrimination by Michael D. Barber (Humanity Books) Excerpt: Examples of prejudice against Jews, women, African Americans, and other minority groups are reported almost daily by the media. Despite educational programs to counteract prejudicial attitudes, this seeming­ly intractable problem remains an ongoing concern, not only in the United States but throughout the world. It is an interesting and often overlooked fact that the subject of prejudice has been the focus of major works by three promi­nent philosophers in the phenomenological tradition, works that still offer many insights into contemporary attempts to understand this social problem: Jean-Paul Sartre's Anti-Semite and Jew, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and Alfred Schutz's essay "Equality and the Meaning Structure of the World." Michael Barber examines this striking convergence of interests by these three philosophers and explores the significance of phenomenology for analysing: prejudice as expressed in anti-Semitism, sexism, and racism.

Part One first examines Edmund Husserl's highly abstract use of the term prejudice and then considers how Sartre, Beauvoir, and Schutz applied their own unique modifications of Husserl's phenomenological system to var ious manifestations of prejudice. In their writings, Barber uncovers a dialec­tic between a modernist concern for equality and a postmodernist fear of the suppression of "alterity"-the distinctive qualities of the groups against whom prejudice is directed. In Part Two Barber articulates a theoretical system . of ethics that is innovative in reconciling the very different ethical perspectives of Karl-Otto Apel and Emmanuel Levinas. The book concludes by drawing on this unique synthesis to provide an ethical warrant for affirmative action, illuminating the unacknowledged presuppositions at play in debates over this issue, particularly the tensions between equality and diversity.

Newspapers throughout the world report daily examples of prejudice against Jews, women, African-Americans, and other minority groups examples in which those with prejudices classify members of such groups antagonistically and act and think toward them accordingly. When such prejudices shape institutions that treat the members of these groups unfairly or exclude them, one can speak of discrimina­tion. Prejudice and discrimination abound in spite of the fact that legal and educational programs worldwide have attempted to redress past offenses and change present attitudes. In the face of these seemingly intractable social problems, several philosophers have examined prej­udice from their varied philosophical frameworks. It is an impressive fact that three prominent philosophers who have contributed impor­tant works to this topic trace their philosophical roots to the tradition of phenomenology, initiated by Edmund Husserl. Jean-Paul Sartre devoted a major work to anti-Semitism, Simone de Beauvoir one to sexism, and Alfred Schutz one to racism. Besides focusing on these concerns in major works, each author examines other forms of preju­dice, even within those major works, and it will be instructive to draw connections between their approaches to different prejudices. Is there perhaps a dynamism in phenomenology that might have led these thinkers to turn their attention to these pressing concerns? Moreover, what aspects, methods, or concepts particular to phenomenology help illuminate prejudice?

Taking a cue from this striking convergence of three thinkers within the same philosophical tradition upon the single question of prejudice, the first part of this book undertakes a study unique to the history of phenomenology. That is, it explores how the three major phenomenological figures brought their underlying philosophical par­adigms to bear upon this problem of prejudice. Of course, each author selected from the treasure trove of Husserlian phenomenology dif­ferent concepts, emphases, and methods. Thus it will be necessary to present first of all Husserl's own approach to phenomenology, viewed under the auspices of his own struggle against "prejudice," in the highly abstract meaning that that term held for him-a meaning dif­ferent from but related to the meaning of the prejudice as common­sense bigotry. Then, in the case of each successor to Husserl, before discussing in-depth their specific works on discrimination, it will be important to present their general phenomenological viewpoints and to make clear the modifications they introduced into the tradition that Husserl began.

Even though at least forty years have passed since these three philosophers produced their works on prejudice, many of their insights are as valuable today as they were then, and, as will be shown, the critical, reflexive method of phenomenology was crucial in the pro­duction of these insights. On the other hand, by an exposure of the phenomenological roots of their varied approaches to prejudice, the meaning of phenomenology itself will become clearer and its rele­vance to contemporary issues more manifest.

There is value in considering these three analyses of discrimina­tion in juxtaposition in the first section entitled "Phenomenological Perspectives," since the shortcomings and strengths of their various adaptations of phenomenological method will become all the more evi­dent. In a sense, this interplay between viewpoints will involve a self­-critique of phenomenology itself. Further, although one cannot claim that anti-Semitism, sexism, or racism are the "same" kind of discrimi­nation, there is value in examining them in tandem, as Lewis Gordon has suggested, and the contrasts and similarities between them will surface more conspicuously when the three different discussions are laid out side by side.

In addition, this consideration of the phenomenon of prejudice from three different perspectives will bring to the surface a dialectic between equality and alterity that will be important for the rest of the book. Each of the thinkers opposes prejudice in the name of equality, and yet each worries that the struggle for equality runs the risk of over­looking or even suppressing the distinctiveness of the very groups against whom there is prejudice. In this sense, these authors in their own way anticipate the later, present-day conflict between modernity and postmodernity, without, however, falling into its polarizations. While modernity tends to favor the Enlightenment's vision of the equality of all rational agents, postmodernity mistrusts the repressive, homogenizing effects of Enlightenment rationality, particularly insofar as it prides itself on being only rational.

Of course, there are limits to phenomenological approaches to prejudice that focus on the dynamics of consciousness involved in prejudicial activity. While Sartre, Beauvoir, and Schutz place discus sions of consciousness within the context of intersubjective relation­ships and institutional arrangements perhaps more than other phe­nomenologists, they do not undertake detailed analyses, as sociolo­gists and economists might, of the social-structural or economic factors that underpin most forms of prejudice and that would need to be studied in any full consideration of prejudice. Schutz himself is quite aware that the phenomenological take on social reality is limited, but it still captures aspects of that social reality that differing strategies of investigation will of necessity neglect. One need not cover every dimension of a problem in order to understand it quite well from one particular angle.

One of the main limitations of phenomenological method as it has been practiced is that it has tended to concentrate on epistemological or ontological questions rather than ethical ones. Such a concentration can be traced historically back to the founder of phenomenology, who published extensively on epistemology but never synthesized and pub­lished his views on ethics. It is true, however, that the Husserl Archive contains numerous manuscripts dedicated to value-theory and ethics and some of Husserl's lectures on the subject have been collected in a volume of the Husserliana series. In these manuscripts and lectures, Husserl continues in ethical theory the struggle against psychologism that is one trademark of his epistemology by distinguishing between feeling-acts and the values given in those acts and yet irreducible to them. On the object-side, Husserl develops an axiology, a formal logic, by which one might direct one's choices between values, and, on the subject-side, he elaborates a pure pragmatics in which rightness of will consists in willing as every other subject would will, that is, as an impartial spectator would will. Although Husserl's pragmatics is com­patible with Kantian ethics and with the goal of self formation charac­teristic of Husserl's later writings, Husserl also considered a kind of material value-ranking that would find its fullest articulation in the works of Max Scheler, one of the most famous phenomenologist-ethi­cians. On the one hand, the argument in this book, as shall be seen, favors on one plane a Kantian ethics that has made the linguistic-inter­subjective turn, such as Karl-Otto Apel's, and so could subsume much of Husserl's pragmatics. On the other hand, this book supplements Apel's transcendental ethics with Emmanuel Levinas's phenomenology of alterity, that, as I have argued elsewhere, upholds the best of Scheler's a priori ranking of values while avoiding its weaknesses. In spite of the valuable insights scattered throughout Husserl's manu­scripts and lectures, the fact that he never systematically presented his ethics indicates that it was never his major preoccupation.

Husserl's phenomenological successors did not fare much better when it came to ethics. Although Beauvoir authored The Ethics of Ambiguity and Sartre his posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics, they do not present a fully worked out systematic ethics that might justify their ethical outrage about sexism and anti-Semitism, in part because their existentialist leanings left them somewhat antipa­thetic to ethical theory. Schutz, because of his descriptive approach as well as his social scientific suspicion that ethical codes serve to shore up fragile in-group identities, kept himself at a distance from ethical theory, even though a strong ethical repugnance pervades his descrip­tions of the mechanisms of racial prejudice.

I will suggest, however, that Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity and Sartre's posthumous Notebooks for an Ethics point in the direction of the ethics that I will elaborate in the second, systematic part of the book-an ethics that synthesizes the ethics of Apel's transcendental pragmatics with Levinas's phenomenology of alterity. Nevertheless, this first part of the book neither examines versions of phenomeno­logical ethics nor explores future prospects for a phenomenological ethics. Rather its purpose is to survey three phenomenological approaches to the problem of prejudice, to concentrate on specific works dedicated to forms of prejudice, and to bring to the surface the dialectic between equality and alterity that will become a central topic in the second part of the book.

The second part, "Systematics: Ethics and Affirmative Action," attempts to articulate a theoretical ethics comprehensive enough to address the relation between equality and alterity. On the one hand, it will argue that Karl-Otto Apel provides an adequate justification for a Kantian-type ethics that would support that equality between rational agents that those in the phenomenological tradition in part 1 insisted upon without sufficiently justifying. On the other hand, Emmanuel Levinas's phenomenology attends to the question of alterity by descibing the ethical dimensions of the encounter with the Other. While these two philosophers are taken to represent antagonistic trends in contemporary philosophy, such as that of German versus French philosophy or modernity versus postmodernity, this book will integrate their diverse but complementary projects within a common philosophical architectonic, a two-tiered ethical theory, modeled on Husserl's distinction between the transcendental and life-world (or pretranscendental) poles. Apel's transcendental pragmatics, which integrates within itself the hermeneutical life-world phenomenology of Heidegger and Gadamer, concentrates on questions of justification and validity on a transcendental plane akin to Husserl's, whereas Levinas locates his phenomenology of alterity at a pretheoretical level func­tioning on the same level as the life-world for Husserl.

In articulating this architectonic, it will be important to adjust and attune the different levels to each other. Since the architectonic is Husserlian in inspiration and since Levinas admits the Husserlian ori gins of his own philosophy, it will be necessary in chapter 5 to consider how transcendental pragmatics harmonizes with Husserlian phenome­nology, particularly in developing aspects already present in Husserl's transcendental philosophy, and yet corrects it in other aspects. The presentation of transcendental pragmatic ethical theory and its justifi­cation will follow on this rapprochement with Husserlian phenome­nology. While Apel's transcendental pole establishes a notion of equality on the basis of discourse itself, it also opens toward alterity, but it requires the supplementation and radicalization of Levinas's phe­nomenology of alterity at a pretheoretical, life-world level, as shall be shown in chapter 6. That chapter will show that Levinas's notion of the Third is the point where his phenomenology meets transcendental pragmatics and that his critique of reason enriches rather than contra­dicts transcendental pragmatics. A final section in chapter 6 will eluci­date how this delicate reconciliation between these divergent stand­points, in which the distinctiveness of each and the capacity of each to complete and challenge the other is preserved, will of necessity be an uneasy one.

In the final two chapters, I will attempt to illustrate the signifi­cance and relevance of this two-tiered ethics, which reconciles tran­scendental pragmatics and the phenomenology of alterity, by bringing it to bear on the question of affirmative action-an issue to which the previous discussions of discrimination are still relevant and in which the ideals of equality and responsiveness to alterity clash head-on. Although affirmative action originally aimed at restoring to equality those who had suffered centuries of exclusion, ironically in these days many complain that it is an unethical policy which violates the stan­dard of equality by unjustly discriminating against white males and thus creating a new excluded alterity. These final two chapters will argue that affirmative action is at the least an ethical policy, apart from considerations of its constitutional or legal appropriateness. The first of these last chapters will show how deontological concerns have led to a refashioned and limited definition of affirmative action, and it will offer an understanding of equality (treating people not equally or the same but "as equals") that has been transformed through exposure to the excluded Other and that would justify a compensatory approach to affirmative action. The final chapter will defend affirmative action as an adequate form of compensation by opposing positions that claim its inadequacy because it is over- or underinclusive, because it cannot be proven that discrimination is the cause of the exclusion of those sup­posedly deserving compensation, and because it turns the tables on white males by discriminating against them.

By attempting to provide an ethical warrant for affirmative action, this book will do more than show the relevance of the two-tiered ethics to a concrete moral and political issue. The entire discussion of affir mative action has often proceeded with unexamined or unjustified notions of human solidarity, equality, compensation, inclusion, social causality, diversity, and so on. Moreover, reflections upon affirmative action often take place within a broader philosophical context that they rarely make explicit. I attempt to remedy these deficiencies by proceeding as phenomenology always has, illuminating on transcen­dental and pretranscendental planes the taken-for-granted, unac­knowledged presuppositions at play. Because of unexamined presup­positions, opponents of affirmative action find it unethical, without even being aware that there are alternative ways to understand the basic concepts and alternative frameworks with which to approach the question. By making explicit such alternatives and arguing for their plausibility, this book seeks to persuade its reader in favor of affirma­tive action. But it also takes its place in the history of political and social philosophy, one of whose great founders, Plato, saw so clearly that Thrasymachus's dictum that might meant right required the Republic's long and searching reply since Thrasymachus presupposed much that he did not even recognize about human nature, episte­mology, metaphysics, rationality, and even the character of philosophy itself. It is rare to see a synthesis of Levinas and Apel, and even rarer to see such a synthesis proving its relevance to a key practico-ethical topic in contemporary society.


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