Tom Sparrow, author of THE END OF PHENOMENOLOGY, has proposed a powerful rebuttal of phenomenological critiques of “SR/OOO”, based on his intensive study of all existing episodes of THE WALKING DEAD. Sparrow is courageous enough to put forward his ZR (Zombie Rearguard) Argument, despite the fact that it refutes his own book. This is also the conclusion of Dan Zahavi in his article “The end of what? Phenomenology vs. speculative realism“.
To bring this out I am de-blogging Sparrow’s post, by substituting “phenomenology” for SR, and minimally adapting the original text.
“What if we all agreed that phenomenology is dead? What would change about the current Continental landscape? One thing that would not change is the fact that Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger and Husserl have published the books and articles they have. Commentators on phenomenology would continue to teach and to write, still get invited to speak around the world, and would continue to find their work adopted by disciplines other than philosophy. They would continue to edit book series. Generally, things would carry on as usual.
Whether anyone acknowledges the existence of phenomenology has little bearing on the kind of thinking that goes on in those, er, spheres. Which is itself a point about what constitutes phenomenology: its impact outlasts the discourse of its demise and the beliefs of those who affirm or deny this demise. Merleau-Ponty’s, Husserl’s and Heidegger’s efficacy does not depend on the life or death of something called “phenomenology”.
Have the non-philosophers been duped by Heidegger, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty, drawn into their orbit by their sophistry and rhetorical attraction? In a way, that’s not at all and shouldn’t be the question. First off, to ask it already implies, as Hubert Dreyfus pointed out, that the non-philosophers are somehow more gullible and vulnerable than “we philosophers”. Second, the asking of this question positions the anti-phenomenology SR contingent in the position of protector or guardian, and casts their criticism of Heidegger, Husserl, and Merleau-Ponty in a light that illuminates their hubristic paternalism toward the non-philosophers. Third, it neglects the ways in which those outside of philosophy have adopted, adapted, and mobilized the forces of hermeneutics/phenomenology in ways unimaginable by philosophical purists. One thing I’ve learned from the SPEP conference is that the non-philosophers are doing quite well with their appropriations of hermeneutics/phenomenology, thank you very much”.