Theology and Philosophy

Jodie McNeilly - 16 September

God Without God: the divine limit of the phenomenon


The background concern of this paper is the well-rehearsed debate on the ‘theological turn’ (or “veerings”) in French Phenomenology that was ignited by Dominique Janicaud some 25 years ago in his vociferous critique of several leading French thinkers. It also responds to subsequent contestations against Janicaud by numerous scholars defending these thinkers radicalising of phenomenology in their attempts to account for what Emanuel Levinas had “stirred up in the phenomenological field” by “re-posing the question of the philosophical status of the idea of God” What is pivotal to Janicaud in his exclusionary critique and drawing of phenomenological boundaries is to hold dearly to the method as Edmund Husserl intended. In doing so, only describable phenomena that appear (or are logically subtended to appear) provide the litmus for a bona fide phenomenology. In opening and broadening the method to include experiences of a transcendent, religious nature as the French thinkers do, orthodox Husserlian thinking places these projects into question. The purpose of this paper is to introduce one argument from my bigger project that (like Janicaud) questions these post-Husserlian thinkers from a strict, un-radicalised Husserlian view of phenomenology and which (unlike Janicaud) permits a phenomenology of religion with Husserl’s philosophy. In this presentation I will focus upon my ‘working’ analysis pertaining to three key aspects to suggest a divine limit to phenomena: first, the concept of ‘the phenomenon’ as developed in Husserl’s project; second, the “status of the idea of God” in Husserl’s writings; and third, the relevant philosophical discourse on God that emerges from the Janicaud-led debate, which will touch on my critical commentary of the phenomenology of ‘the inapparent’, and post-phenomenological thought on the ‘uncertainty’ of God as the basis of faith.


Jodie McNeilly is a higher degree research student at Australian Catholic University.