Early Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy (book review) Leonard Lawlor

101014: this is a later later addition. just reread the first chapter on bergson, and enjoyed it again, but more moved to read on him or by him, than continue this book again... but then, there is me hoping to read some Indic philosophy, some American philosophy, some Japanese philosophy- and before that interested in reading on philosophy of time, this suggests what it is like to have no selected texts you have to read but have philosophical interests all over...


this is a later addition: when thinking of this book, returning to reread the first essay, to try to understand bergson, decided to recall his concept of 'multiplicity', through various images. first, comes the image of two reels of an ancient tape machine, where the one reels to the other, becoming less (future) as the other (past) becomes more: this represents the unbroken continuity of time but mistakenly suggests time is something of the same 'material' that could in theory be 'rewound' or layered on itself. second, there is the image of a spectrum, which does in image represent some material variety, some qualitative change in time from past to future, some range of colours (time), a multiplicity: but here is considered already made and essentially spatial. third, comes the image of stretching an elastic material, which suggests how this material (time) is continuous variations in tension, how the past, the present, the future, are all of one unbroken form, a unity: but does not allow how it becomes different not simply in tension, in place again spatial, so must join the others as 'partial' images of time. i love these 'fluid' gestures, these 'images', that try to 'capture' bergson's ontological conception through time, this 'multiplicity' in 'unity'... but part of what we must learn, is that there is always more than what we sense, what we conceive, what we represent... could go on and on, but it is this chapter on bergson that alone renders this book a four...


300914: first review. according to this book, the research agenda of the project of continental philosophy may be summed up in one sentence: 'this kind of philosophy aims to construct a discourse that leads us to an experience that puts ourselves in question'. ah, well, now i understand the entire history of early twentieth century continental philosophy. to explain that summation, however, requires close reading of essays on bergson, freud, husserl, early heidegger, late heidegger, merleau-ponty, and last, some foucault. this is an introduction to an entire style of thought, which i very much enjoy though cannot say completely understand...


lawlor conceives this research project in four central investigations of ideas, which emerge in somewhat clear order through these named philosophers, themes that characterize these thoughts: 1) starting point is immanence, first understood as internal, subjective, experience but later, after universality of the 'epoche' (bracketing) as ungrounded experience, 2) difference, which gives way to multiplicity, itself emancipated from absolute, becoming itself absolute, 3) thought, as independent of language and logos, as indefinite continuous variation, 4) the overcoming of metaphysics, where such is identified with platonism, thus freeing to creation of new thought, new being, new consciousness... all of these are finally expressed in the last chapter on foucault, which i cannot claim to understand...


in fact, this book engages me throughout my original ignorance of unifying themes, and my eventual somewhat lessened ignorance and thus understanding, for though i have read on and by these philosophers, have some sense of their style, coherence and certainty do not truly reflect my continuing appreciation of the research agenda. or the themes evoked. i am pleased to feel understanding of bergson, no great understanding for essentially unread freud, sympathy at least for husserl, some sense of early heidegger, some frustration of poetic later heidegger, again pleased to think i follow merleau-ponty, then admiration, if no great subsequent understanding of foucault... but it is a book that encourages me, that leads me to read on these thinkers, as most of my philosophy reading is continental and of that phenomenology... i will read on...

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