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Ida Djursaa

Research project: Alterity and Plasticity: An Exploration of Transcendence in Husserl, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty

Abstract

My research resituates the work of the three philosophers Husserl, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty through a rethinking of the concept of transcendence in each of their works. Transcendence has multiple meanings in phenomenology. Being at once the inaccessible element in what appears to us at any given moment, it is also what triggers a movement of self-transcendence, of change. I will trace this double structure of transcendence in each of the philosophers: intersubjectivity in Husserl, the body in Merleau-Ponty, and radical alterity as a way of thinking resistance in Levinas.

My thesis is that transcendence, far from being an immutable horizon, should be reconceptualised as the driving force and the process of change and transformation. This notion of transcendence as transformation, already present in each of the three philosophers, is embodied in the contemporary concept of plasticity. Plasticity means the ability to take form, to be malleable, but also the ability to resist total deformation. Plasticity thus embodies the tension between ‘transformability' as a continuous absorption of transcendence on the one hand, and ‘resistance' as a way for alterity to remain transcendent to immanence, on the other. 

My goal is twofold: 1) to recreate the philosophical link between the three thinkers through their very different concepts of transcendence. This entails a rethinking of the concept of transcendence itself. 2) To explore the plastic character of transcendence and its capacity to describe or critique our current epoch. This is an epoch characterised largely by a rapid and continuous change, arguably like never before (e.g. global capitalism, AI, climate change, etc.). We might then say that ‘otherness' is increasingly present everywhere, in the metamorphic (plastic) multiplicity of worlds, narratives and identities. I evaluate whether or not transcendence is a particularly useful way in which to interrogate this coincidence of plasticity and alterity.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Alterity and Plasticity: An Exploration of Transcendence in Husserl, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty
  • Research supervisor: Ms Catherine Malabou
  • Other research supervisor: Professor Stella Sandford

Biography

I am a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. My research investigates the concept of transcendence in Husserl, Levinas and Merleau-Ponty, with a focus on the possibility of thinking transcendence and plasticity together. 

Areas of research interest

  • Modern European Philosophy
  • Phenomenology
  • Philosophy of Plasticity
  • Metaphysics

Qualifications

  • MA in Modern European Philosophy, Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy
  • BA in English Literature, Queen Mary University of London

Funding or awards received

  • Kingston University Studentship
  • Knud Højgaards fond
  • Augustinusfonden
  • Torben & Alice Frimodts Fond

Publications

New Formations 93, Summer 2018, Book review of Brenna Bhandar and Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller (eds.), Plastic Materialities: Politics, Legality, and Metamorphosis in the Work of Catherine Malabou, Durham and London, Duke University Press, 2015

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