Evil and Givenness: The Thanatonic Phenomenon provides a phenomenological study of evil in its conceptual integrity.Describing a phenomenological situation exclusive to evil in its distinct mode of givenness and manners of manifestation, the account of evil in this book centers on the thanatonic as that phenomenality proper to evil. Although situated within a phenomenology of givenness via Jean-Luc Marion, the thanatonic is distinguished from saturated phenomena by giving itself in a parasitic mode. Brian W. Becker identifies four figures as displaying characteristics of this parasitic givenness—trauma, evil eye, foreign-body, and abject—each expressing a dimension of the thanatonic and paralleling the four figures of the saturated phenomenon. Like the four horsemen who serve as heralds for the destruction of the world, these figures beckon the destruction of our lifeworld, diminishing the self who encounters them. Upon losing the will to bear the excess of saturated phenomena, the receding of horizons, and the loss of singularity, this impoverished self misrecognizes itself in a manner that begins to resemble the metaphysical ego and, in doing so, becomes a vector for retransmitting the thanatonic’s suffering unto others.
Brian W. Becker is professor of neuropsychology at Lesley University and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal for Continental Philosophy of Religion.
Introduction: The Problem of the Problem of Evil
Part I: Modes of Givenness
Chapter 1: “They Shall Know Them by Their Fruits”: A Phenomenology of Givenness
Chapter 2: Parasitic Givenness
Part II: The Four Horsemen of the Thanatonic
Chapter 3: Lost Time: The Event of Trauma
Chapter 4: The Evil Eye
Chapter 5: “It is No Longer I Who Do it”: The Foreign-body
Chapter 6: “Surely it is Not I”: The Abject
Part III: Amputation of the Possible
Chapter 7: Being Diminished: The Thanatonic Ego
About the Author
Philosophers in the Platonist tradition understood evil as nonbeing. That is to say, if being and goodness are convertible, then logically evil must be understood as nonbeing. In short, evil is not a thing but the absence of something, a gap in existence that parasitically perverts the underlying good of being. The classic example here is blindness understood as the absence of sight. Phenomenology, since at least the work of Martin Heidegger, has wanted to break with this kind of metaphysics. Jean-Luc Marion's phenomenology replaces the metaphysical analysis of being with an investigation of the givenness of phenomena in all forms. In this volume, Becker develops Marion's phenomenology into a phenomenology of evil. In other words, in response to the question of how evil is given, Becker answers that it is given in a parasitic mode—repeating classical metaphysics in a phenomenological register. The parasitic givenness of evil subdivides into four modes, which Becker calls "The Four Horsemen of the Thanatonic" (the second part of three of this volume). A careful, rigorous development of Marion's phenomenology, the book is unique and thought-provoking, but it is not for the faint-hearted or those unfamiliar with recent French phenomenology in general and Marion's work in particular. Highly recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.
Brian Becker's Thanatonic phenomenology is also a Thanatonic psychology; rarely have the two disciplines been so linked to each other. Regarding trauma, it is also phenomenology itself that must be transformed. The evil hurts in that it refers to the constitution of myself. To read Evil and Givenness is to cross what makes the deepest part of our humanity.
Developing clues drawn from throughout Jean-Luc Marion’s work, including both very early and very recent writings addressing the logic of evil, Brian Becker argues persuasively that we need to understand the transcendental ego of modernity phenomenologically within the horizon of givenness. Emerging subsequent to the gifted who accepts to receive itself by suffering the excessiveness of saturated phenomena, the traumatized “thanatonic” ego instead refuses to acknowledge its givenness, diminishing and misrecognizing itself to the point of feeding parasitically on the given, repeatedly inflicting its suffering on the objects it constructs. Becker demonstrates with admirable sensitivity and insight that the phenomenology of givenness can shed light on even the darkest phenomena of human experience.