In a few days’ time, on the 27th January 2017, I will be defending my PhD dissertation at the University of Copenhagen; just a few days after then, I will be bringing my period as a researcher at the Center for Subjectivity Research to a close. While I look forward to the former event with nervous excitement, having by now shed most strivings to infinitely rework the dissertation into an ever inaccessible state of perfection, my feelings about leaving the CFS are certainly more apprehensive. Having spent most of the last five years in the midst of the initially exotic ‘Subjektivitetsforskning’, its heady blend of, amongst many other virtuous traits, philosophical openness, resistance to entrenched boundaries, fascination with the mysteries of sociality and selfhood, and high scholarly standards, all now feels entirely natural. I will sorely miss participating in such a unique and engaging research community. Rather than eulogising the closing chapter of my life spent at the Center, however, the present post will rather outline the product of that period of time, namely, the contents of my doctoral dissertation.
“The world is there prior to every analysis I could give of it, and it would be artificial to derive it from a series of synthesis that would first link sensations and then perspectival appearances of the object together, whereas both of these are in fact products of the analysis and must not have existed prior to it. Reflective analysis believes it moves in the reverse direction along the path of a previous constitution and meets up with – in the “inner man,” as Saint Augustine says – a constituting power that it itself has always been. Thus, reflection carries itself along and places itself back within an invulnerable subjectivity, prior to being and time. Yet this is a naïveté, or, if one prefers, an incomplete reflection that loses an awareness of its own beginning.” (Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception)
100 years ago, Rudolf Otto’s influential study The idea of the holy was published. It may be worthwhile to revisit some of his ideas.
It is often said that the achievements of the phenomenologist Rudolf Otto prove more sustainable than those of the Kantian theologian that he also was. In this perspective, the most interesting part of The idea of the holy is probably constituted by Otto’s detailed descriptions of ‘the numinous’. By this he means the peculiar affective quality of religious life without which the various ‘rational’ meanings and doctrines related to it could not be properly understood.