It's a fascinating piece that would serve as an excellent first reading in an upper level undergraduate or graduate level survey course in metaphysics. One of the many interesting things in it is the discussion of anti-metaphysics movements and arguments in analytical and continental philosophy. If one patiently examines the history of these, then many of the standard comicbook views just fall away.
The weirdest thing is that contemporary anti-metaphysical phenomenologists such as Janicaud in some ways have far more in common with early analytic philosophers such as the logical positivists, and perhaps even more so with the first generation of post-positivists such as Quine and Strawson, than they do with early phenomenologists such as Father van Breda, the founder of the Husserl archives at Lueven [the ATMOC mirror site is currently translating parts of a fascinating conference that includes a discussion between van Breda and Strawson; I'll post on that next week].
On the rich tradition of phenomenological metaphysics, here is a quote from Millière's inaugural lecture (GOTO his original article, linked to above, for the citations):
This [Dummett's] taking into consideration of the Austrian way and of Brentano’s influence also shows that to systematically oppose phenomenology to analytic ontology (or to ontology tout court) amounts, as we have seen, to arbitrarily ignoring the work led by Husserl before the turn to transcendental idealism (in particular in the Logical Investigations), but also the work of realist phenomenologists who claimed to follow his teaching, such as Johannes Daubert,111 Adolf Reinach,112 Max Scheler, and above all Roman Ingarden,113 whose contributions to contemporary metaphysics are major, and whose works are almost exclusively discussed by analytic philosophers.
Three things were decisive I think for the 1960's posivisitic/verificationist period of phenomenology, which could only exist by suppressing the Austrian tradition:
- Husserl's Kantian turn, which was
- Initially absolutely repudiated by Heidegger (cf. the 1919 lectures criticizing Southwest School neo-Kantianism, a discussion that formed the basis of the tool analysis), but then subtly reinforced by Heidegger's critique of metaphysics (which with a double irony just recapitulated Carnap's criticism of Heidegger, as both attacks on metaphysics are entirely rooted in verificationism; see Okrent on "the turn"),
- The linguistic turn in France, through structuralism and post-structuralism, which again ironically (in philosophy) led to a further recapitulation of Vienna Circle themes (and one of the three planks of Meillassoux's "correlationism" is just verificationism).*
But I think the long view will yield a quite different account of phenomenology, metaphysics, and analytic philosophy for that matter.
First, the linguistic turn no longer has anything approaching hegemony anywhere (though we all live in its shadow). Second, there is an impressive French metaphysical tradition not in tension with the phenomenological ontologists, a tradition from which we should all learn, e.g.:
However, to question the actual status of metaphysics in France must not prevent us from (re)discovering the rich lineage of French metaphysicians of the twentieth century, sometimes forgotten, belonging to currents as diverse as spiritualism, personalism, neo-Thomism, neo-Platonism, existentialism, etc. Let us mention among them: Jeah Wahl (Traité de métaphysique, L’expérience métaphysique), Vladimir Jankélévitch (Philosophie première), Étienne Gilson (L’Être et l’essence), Stanislas Breton (Du principe), Louis Lavelle (the four volumes of La dialectique de l’éternal présent), Nicolas Berdiaev (Essai de métaphysique eschatologique), Gabriel Marcel (Journal métaphysique, Le mystère de l’être), Maurice Nédoncelle (Intersubjectivité et ontologie), Aimé Forest (Du consentement à l’être), Maurice Blondel (L’être et les êtres), Jean-Paul Sartre (L’être et le néant), Étienne Souriau (Les différents modes d’existence). Of course, all these explicit works on the metaphysical character of their project do not present the same interest, but it would be at least instructive to reevaluate their propositions with regard to contemporary experiences.
And this doesn't mention any of the contemporary ferment in French metaphysics** which is discussed and manifest throughout Millière's excellent piece .***
*Surely a fourth factor involves who survived the abbatoirs of both world wars. There is no doubt that the slaughter of an entire generation in Poland combined with the murder or exile of the Vienna Circle and Frankfurt Schools had a profound influence on European Philosophy. But this was written small all over the place. If Jean Cavaillès had not been martyred, things would have surely been different. What if Gerhard Gentzen had lived? I don't mention this factor above, and Millière doesn't go in to it, because these counterfactuals are too unknowable. But we should not forget that post World War II European philosophy was written by survivors.
**I am not claiming (and neither does Millière) that this ferment is characteristic of even a plurality of academic French philosophy. But nonetheless it is happening, and strikes me the most interesting things going on in contemporary philosophy, analytic or continental.
***I would like to end with that, but given the level of vituperative stupidity surrounding much of the discussions concerning the "analytic-continental" divide, I need to say one more thing. Repudiation of anti-metaphysics is not a repudiation of anti-metaphysical thinkers or the importance of their legacy. Robert Brandom is ferociously anti-metaphysical, but this doesn't get metaphysicians like myself off the hook from engaging with his work. Likewise for all of the great anti-metaphysical phenomenologists, some of whom are a key part of the inheritance of what we (with that strangely vapid form of Orientalism that seems to be the birthright of all post WWII Americans) have come to know as "French Theory").]