Further Questions: A Way Out of the Present Philosophical Situation (via Foucault)


  • Leonard Lawlor Pennsylvania State University




Foucault, European philosophy, Badiou, Deleuze, continental philosophy


Let us begin by assembling some signs of the present philosophical situation. On the one hand, the most important living French philosopher, Alain Badiou, calls for a “return to Plato,” despite the movement of anti-Platonism that dominated French and German thought in the 20th century. On the other hand, the present moment sees a resurgence of naturalism in philosophy in general (including and especially Anglophone analytic philosophy), despite the criticisms of naturalism that have appeared throughout the 20th century. Phenomenology seems to be at the center of both of these movements. On the one hand, it is the idea of a mathematized ontology that requires the return to Plato, a mathematized ontology constructed without a reflection on its transcendental grounds. On the other, the resurgence of naturalism is so strong that a book could be imagined and published with the bastard name of Naturalizing Phenomenology, as if the transcendental moment of phenomenology did not transform the very meaning of nature. These signs seem to indicate that we have entered into a phase of regression or even decline in philosophical thinking. If this interpretation of the signs is correct, if we have indeed entered into a phase of regression -- a twofold regression toward Platonism and toward naturalism -- we must ask the following question: is it possible for us to define something like a project or even a research agenda that would allow us to define a way of thinking that might lead us out of the present situation, a situation, it must be said, that seems dire for philosophy in general? If we can determine such a research agenda, perhaps we can also begin to understand what the tradition of “continental philosophy” has stood for.

Author Biography

Leonard Lawlor, Pennsylvania State University

Leonard Lawlor is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University. He is the author of seven books: Early Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy (Indiana, 2011); This is not Sufficient: An Essay on Animality in Derrida (Columbia, 2007); The Implications of Immanence: Towards a New Concept of Life (Fordham, 2006); Thinking Through French Philosophy: The Being of the Question (Indiana, 2003); The Challenge of Bergsonism: Phenomenology, Ontology, Ethics (Continuum, 2003); Derrida and Husserl: The Basic Problem of Phenomenology (Indiana, 2002); Imagination and Chance: The Difference Between the Thought of Ricoeur and Derrida (SUNY, 1992). He is one of the co-editors and co-founders of Chiasmi International: Trilingual Studies Concerning the Thought of Merleau-Ponty. He has translated Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, and Hyppolite into English. He has written dozens of articles on Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Bergson, and Merleau-Ponty. He is currently working on two books: What happened? What is going to happen? (for Columbia University Press) and (co-authored with Vernon Cisney) a Guide to Derrida’s Voice and Phenomenon (for Edinburgh University Press).