Tieteestä ja vastuusta. Fenomenologisia näkökulmia eurooppalaisuuteen

On science and responsibility: Phenomenological perspectives on European identity

Maurice Merleau-Ponty gave an important speech on the European spirit in 1946. Merleau-Ponty claimed that the European identity is in crisis. This article argues that his remarks on Europe and its crisis can be understood only in relation to Edmund Husserl's late writings on the state of the European sciences. Merleau-Ponty's discussion on Europe is an elaboration of Husserl's arguments. The central notion here is Husserl's idea of philosophy as rigorous science. According to Husserl, this is the core of the European spirit. He defines his notion of philosophy in two steps: first he distinguishes the theoretico-philosophical attitude from the practical life-interests, and then he argues that the theoretical attitude makes possible a specific new practice: universal criticism. Philosophy – as rigorous science – becomes radical self-criticism and self-responsibility. It is argued further that the Husserlian notion of philosophy as self-responsibility is the basis for Merleau-Ponty's claims according to which philosophy is an endless project. Merleau-Ponty develops Husserl's idea of philosophy as a kind of reflective movement that turns back to study its own origin and question its own possibility. The "turning back" should not be understood as a distant goal or an end result; it is rather like an exercise that has to be repeated again and again. For Merleau-Ponty, philosophy is not a problem to be solved but a paradox that has to be accepted. Finally, the article suggests that Michel Foucault's genealogy and Jacques Derrida's deconstruction, in an interesting way, comment on the phenomenological tradition of philosophy in questioning the meaning and possibility of self-criticism.

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