Sunteți pe pagina 1din 7

Chu, Ming-Hon

Hello everybody. Today I would like to present to you my proposed research on the
phenomenology of affectivity, by focusing on the anonymous and pre-personal
mechanisms which render our consciousness capable of being affected. In other
words, I would like to investigate the anonymous and pre-personal dimensions of
affectivity as transcendental functions of conscious experiences. The newer
generations of phenomenology have made impressive contributions to this issue by
critically assessing the problem-horizons already opened up, but not yet fully
explored by Edmund Husserl. Beginning from Husserl, phenomenology has already
reappraised the psychological notion affectivity with principal significance in a
philosophical sense. Nevertheless, later phenomenologists differ from Husserl and
from each other on the question how to comprehend the theoretical status of
affectivity. Along their debates regarding this issue, they have revealed different
dimensions of affectivity in order to explain the possibility of conscious experiences.
Through a critical review of their variations and conflicts, I wish to demonstrate that
by going deeper into the anonymous and pre-personal dimensions of consciousness,
we can better grasp the operation of affectivity, and thereby explain conscious
experiences in a more sophisticated manner.

To carry out this project, I will focus on relevant phenomenological doctrines which
thematize affectivity as their central concerns. Before going through different
doctrines, in the immediate following I will sketch the philosophical significance of
affectivity in the context of phenomenology. The notion affectivity in the
phenomenological context is borrowed from classical psychology. In the context of
classical psychology, affectivity designates in general the mental capacity to be
moved by sentiments, emotions, and passions. This psychological conception of
affectivity presupposes generally a dualistic structure of the affective side and the
affected side. It presupposes a psychological subject being exposed to external
influences. Phenomenologists have borrowed this notion and recast it into a
philosophical term. In addition to the common psychological conception,
phenomenologists endow affectivity with a constitutive function, which is as a
necessary condition to the formation of experiential sense. In other words, instead of
being contingent capacity of receiving partial sensations, the operation of affectivity
guarantees the very possibility for any entity to be experiencable. Affectivity is
thereby granted with a central philosophical significance, whose scope is no longer
limited to arousals by sentiment, emotion, and passion in the phenomenological

Despite sharing similar concerns to bestow on affectivity a constitutive function,

Chu, Ming-Hon

there are differences and disagreements among phenomenologists regarding how to

comprehend precisely the theoretical status of affectivity. Three approaches which
concern my project are outlined below:

1. Husserl retains a dualistic structure for the comprehension of affectivity.

Although his phenomenology no longer operates at the psychological level, he
introduces different strata of subjectivity for founding experienceable senses. He
also analyses different strata of affections which inflict influences correspondingly
to different strata of subjectivity. In general, for affection to ever be able to
influence our experiences, the affective side always requires an affected side to
be exercised on. We can legitimately infer from Husserl an implication that
affectivity is ultimately a capacity inherent in the phenomenological subjectivity.
2. Based on a critical reading of Husserl, the French phenomenologist Michel Henry
attempts to correct Husserl by suggesting instead a monistic structure of
affectivity. His revisions of Husserl are based on a critical reconsideration of the
working principles of phenomenology, in particular, the very principle that the
condition of possibility of experience as such must be by itself also experiential.
In other words, if experiences are all conditioned by affectivity, then the subject
of experiences must be able to manifest itself through affection. According to
Henry, for the ultimate stratum of subjectivity to be a genuine foundation for all,
it must not allow further division within itself, which is to say, it must not
manifest itself as an affective subject against an affected subject. In this context, a
dualistic comprehension of affectivity unavoidably lures us to question the status
of the affected subject, leading to an infinite regress. In consequence, Henry
characterizes the appearance of the ultimate stratum of subjectivity as an auto-
affection. It manifests itself to itself in the strictest sense. In the ultimate stratum,
there should be no more division between the affective and the affected.
3. Finally there is a line of thought which aims at unfolding the anonymous
dimensions of affectivity. By anonymous I mean a dissociation of affectivity
from an underlying subjectivity. This guiding thread is dominant in the works of
Marc Richir, another Francophone phenomenologist after Husserl, but is
somehow already foreshadowed by Husserl. Necessitated by the philosophical
task to clarify all possible sorts of experiences, Husserls articulation of different
strata of subjectivity has already descended into the unconscious domain of
subjectivity. This move opens up the possibility of a phenomenological research
on the unconscious operations of affectivity. Husserl is thereby consistent to talk
about formation of affective unities without our consciously being affected by
them. Richir takes a further move by questioning the necessity of the dualistic
Chu, Ming-Hon

structure at the unconscious level, and suggests that even subjectivity should be
conceived as a result of formative processes. Affectivity, as Richir understands it,
does not presuppose an underlying subjectivity, but on the contrary precedes
and conditions the stable distinction between a subjective pole and an objective
pole which frames our normal experiences. The remaining task for Richir is then
to articulate step by step the formation of a dualistic structure from the unstable
principle of affectivity.

The three approaches outlined above provide three models of affectivity. Although
there are tensions between the three different approaches, I suggest appreciating
them as disclosing different aspects of affectivity, instead of reading them as
mutually exclusive accounts. Just like the phenomenological reappraisal of affectivity
does not thus cancel the psychological conception of it, but simply enriches of our
understanding of affectivity through a new perspective, the three models emphasize
different aspects of affectivity which can be recast into a unified and more
sophisticated picture. After all, the focus of my research is the anonymous and pre-
personal dimensions of affectivity. For a general layout of my project, I will first
critically review the dualistic and the monistic models, and then justify the
anonymous model as a more comprehensive account of affectivity. My thesis aims at
showing how the extension of the phenomenological scope to include the deeper
layers of consciousness improves our comprehension of affectivity, including its
operations at the surface levels of consciousness.

Chu, Ming-Hon

Proposed Table of Content


1 A Historical Review of Affectivity

- In this chapter I will review briefly the historical development of the concept of
affectivity, thereby introduce the common characterizations of affectivity before it
enters the phenomenological scene. This step would help us to grasp the novelty of
phenomenology in comparison with the traditions regarding their theoretical
treatments of affectivity. Emphasis should be put on how affectivity grows from a
mental capacity to a constitutive function of consciousness. The latter reception
paves the ground for affectivity to gain a central significance in phenomenology.

2 Phenomenology and Unconsciousness

- As I will argue, a significant move of phenomenology is to situate affectivity
ultimately in the unconscious domain, and then to focus on its autonomous
mechanisms which render our conscious experiences possible. However, it is so
common to associate phenomenology with a descriptive approach to consciousness,
inside the scope of which no unconsciousness could be appropriately talked about.
But indeed, starting from Husserl, phenomenology has already moved beyond the
confine of surface consciousness. In this chapter I shall justify this extension of scope
as necessary for fulfilling the radical task of philosophy, and thereby renders
phenomenology possible to reveal the unconscious operations of affectivity.

Part I The Dualistic Model of Affectivity

3 Intentionality from Brentano to Husserl

- Franz Brentano is a German philosopher who is best known for introducing the
scientific approach of descriptive psychology and reintroducing the scholastic
concept of intentionality to his descriptive psychology. Husserl had attended
Brentanos lectures and was deeply influenced by him, such that he was once a
practitioner of descriptive psychology before establishing his own phenomenological
school. The heritage most relevant to my project is the concept of intentionality,
which implies a dualistic structure of experiences. Husserl has incorporated the
Chu, Ming-Hon

concept of intentionality from Brentanos descriptive psychology to his

phenomenology. In this chapter I will introduce to what extent Husserl transforms
the concept of intentionality from that one conceived by Brentano.
- Jean-Franois Courtine, Histoire et destin phnomnologique de lintentio
dans Lintentionalit en question.

4 The Multifarious Forms of Intentionality

- Intentionality according to Husserl is not restricted to the consciousness of
object. When Husserl analyses the deep structures of consciousness which precede
the formation of intentional object, he extends the connotation of intentionality by
characterizing those pre-objective structures also as intentional. We can thus
summarize that there are multifarious forms of intentionality, among which object-
intentionality is only one case. Correspondingly, Husserl introduces different strata of
subjectivity for residing different forms of intentionality. The broadened conception
of intentionality enables Husserl to explain the affective operations by means of a
dualistic structure. In this chapter I will explain how Husserl characterizes affection as
intentional in structure.

Part II The Monistic Model of Affectivity

5 Henrys Criticisms of Husserl

- Henrys original conception of affectivity is in a large measure based on his
criticisms of Husserl. In short, according to Henry, the dualistic model of
intentionality cannot do justice to the original appearance of intentional
consciousness itself. Therefore Henry attempts to correct Husserl by adding a non-
intentional model of appearance, which is precisely the model of auto-affection. So
before explicating directly Henrys characterization of affectivity, I will review his
criticisms of Husserl regarding intentionality in this chapter.

6 The Appearance of Subjectivity as Auto-Affection

- In this chapter I will explain why and how Henry characterizes affection as
originally auto-affection, thus incarnating a monistic structure. In short, Henry insists
that the subject of experiences must also be experiential, but it is not experiential in
the same manner as intentional objects. Intentional objects must be experiential by
appearing themselves to an intentional subject, whereas the intentional subject does
not appear itself to something else. It appears itself to itself in the strictest sense
such that the division between an affective object and an affected subject does not
apply here. The subject of experiences is ultimately self-given by means of self-
Chu, Ming-Hon


7 The Drawbacks of Henrys Radical Revision of Phenomenology

- Henry regards his phenomenology of affectivity as a radical revision of the
phenomenological tradition. However, his understanding of phenomenology is
indeed very limited in scope, which forbids him to proceed to the deep structures of
consciousness. His limitation is also due to a partial reading of Husserl. He fails to
appreciate the multifarious forms of intentionality articulated by Husserl, and so
misunderstands Husserl as operating with a narrow sense of intentionality. I will
explain in this chapter that all these drawbacks of Henrys phenomenology confine
him from accessing to the unconscious mechanisms of affectivity. Despite all the
drawbacks, I will suggest appreciating Henrys perspective as a suitable approach for
describing the experiential dimension of the conscious subject, which is to say the
pre-reflective self-awareness of the subject.

Part III The Anonymous Model of Affectivity

8 Richirs Critical Reading of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty

- According to Richirs historical review, the German phenomenologist Martin
Heidegger and the French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty are two
prominent figures in the phenomenological tradition who contribute to a conception
of affectivity dissociated from an underlying subjectivity. Contra the psychological
conception of affectivity as a mental capacity, Heidegger has opened the gateway to
comprehend affectivity as a plastic medium preceding and conditioning the fixed
distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. Merleau-Ponty deepens this
Heideggerian insight by comprehending affectivity as originally a corporeal function
beneath the experiential dimensions of our bodies, which have a plastic status
mediating between the psychical life and the physical world. In this chapter I will
elaborate how Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty have laid the groundwork for Richir to
further explore the anonymous and pre-personal dimensions of affectivity.

9 The Primacy of Phantasy

- Richir initiates a project to recast phenomenology by posing a new point of
departure for phenomenological researches. Contra Husserl, the new point of
departure for Richir no longer lies on the intentional correlation of consciousness,
but on phantasy. While the intentional correlation of consciousness remains dualistic
Chu, Ming-Hon

in structure, phantasy, as Richir understands it, is a plastic stage of experience which

subjective and objective aspects are not yet identifiable. Richir regards phantasy as
an exemplary case to prove the limitation of the intentional model in characterizing
experiences. Furthermore, Richir proposes that the classical distinction between the
subjective and the objective aspects of experiences is genetically derived from
phantasy. In this chapter I would elaborate step by step how phantasy genetically
founds the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity according to Richirs

10 The Autonomous Affectivity

- In this chapter I will explain how Richirs radical reflections on the formative
origin of subjectivity and objectivity disclose ultimately the anonymous and pre-
personal dimensions of affectivity. While phantasy founds the experiences which are
structured in dualistic terms, phantasy as experience is rendered possible by the
unconscious operations of affectivity. But the affectivity revealed at this stage does
not presuppose in turn a dualistic structure for its operations like the case conceived
by Husserl. Instead, Richir conceived the operations of affectivity as ultimately
autonomous mechanisms without an underlying subject. I will also clarify how
Husserls methodological extension of the phenomenological scope to
unconsciousness prepares Richirs radical reflections on the unconscious operations
of affectivity.

- I will conclude my dissertation by suggesting a unified picture of the three
models of affectivity I have induced from the phenomenological tradition. I will
suggest reading the three models as revealing different aspects of affectivity,
whereas the anonymous and pre-personal dimensions of affectivity remain so far the
founding layer for the rest.

Patoka, Lesprit et les deux couches fondamentales de lintentionnalit :

Lintentionnalit dacte et lintentionnalit dhorizon.