Université de Strasbourg

Édouard Mehl

Biography - Édouard Mehl

Research Centre for Contemporary German Philosophy (CREPHAC), University of Strasbourg, France

Édouard Mehl, USIAS Fellow 2022A former student of the École normale supérieure (Fontenay-Saint-Cloud, France, 1991-1995), Édouard Mehl's thesis concerned the scientific context of the elaboration of Cartesian science (Paris IV, 1999, directed by J.-L. Marion). He also gained a habilitation to direct research (Paris IV, 2013) devoted to the philosophical implications of the Copernican revolution.

As professor of modern philosophy at the universities of Lille (2014-2019) and Strasbourg (2019-present), and associate member of the Husserl/Paris Archives (Germanic countries unit UMR 8547), Édouard Mehl's research focus at CREPHAC (University of Strasbourg) is on the phenomenological readings of Descartes in contemporary French philosophy (Levinas, Derrida, Michel Henry...). His recent book (Descartes et la fabrique du monde : le problème cosmologique de Copernic à Descartes, Paris, PUF, 2019), was recognised by the Grand Prix Moron of the French Academy in 2020.

Author of some 60 articles and contributions to scholarly publications, he has produced, alone or in a joint effort, around ten collective works, including three volumes published by Les Belles Lettres: La révolution copernicienne dans l'Allemagne de la Réforme (2009); Kepler : la physique céleste. Autour de l'Astronomia nova (1609) (2011); Le temps des astronomes : l'astronomie et le décompte du temps de Pierre d'Ailly à Newton (2017). He has just published Histoire de la fin des temps. Les mutations du discours eschatologique, Moyen Âge, Renaissance, Temps modernes, published by Presses universitaires de Strasbourg (2022) - the university’s publishing house of which he is also the scientific director since 2020.

Project - The Otherness of the Other one. The genesis and critical reception of Husserl's Cartesian Meditations (1931) in French contemporary philosophy

01/09/2022 – 31/08/2024

Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) was the main proponent of a 'phenomenological movement' that revolutionised philosophy in the 20th century. After commencing in the 1880s with a very 'rationalist' orientation, mainly devoted to the task of laying the foundations of the sciences (logic, mathematics, physics), Husserlian philosophy itself underwent a decisive evolution that led it to claim the title of 'transcendental phenomenology' by accessing the domain of pure consciousness. Consciousness or 'subjectivity', which being neither natural, nor even a 'thing', cannot be described in the language of constituted phenomena. Within the phenomenological movement itself, this evolution that was based on Ideas pertaining to a pure phenomenology and phenomenological philosophy (1913) gave rise to a lively discussion in the post-war years, with some disciples considering that Husserl, with transcendental idealism, had fallen back into a form of "metaphysics of the subject" that Kant and his heirs had done justice to.

The primary aim of the USIAS project that Édouard Mehl is carrying out is to highlight the role that the philosopher and theologian Jean Héring (1890-1966) plays in the first French reception of Husserlian phenomenology. A student of Husserl's in Göttingen between 1909 and 1913, Héring arrived at the University of Strasbourg in the mid-1920s, in the distinctive and atypical context of a university which was renewing its teaching staff but which, in certain fields such as Protestant theology, was also seeking to redefine its subject matter - in this case 'religious philosophy'. The University of Strasbourg therefore had a perfectly defined set of expectations with regard to this new philosophy. Héring had the advantage of a first-hand training in phenomenology, and was also part of the group of Husserl's former students (Adolf Reinach, Martin Heidegger, Edith Stein...), who tried to give form and meaning to a ‘religious phenomenology’. This made him an ideal candidate.

From Strasbourg, Héring thus became the driving force behind the first French reception of Husserl, which continued with the thesis that the young Emmanuel Levinas devoted to the master of Freiburg (1930). Levinas equally contributed to the French edition of Cartesian Mediations (1931), a text that emerged from lectures given in Paris and Strasbourg during the course of 1929. The systematic exploration of the Héring collection, which is housed at the Protestant library of the Fondation du Chapitre de Saint-Guillaume (Strasbourg), should enable us to better understand the circumstances and precise conditions that led to the production of the text of these meditations. However, most importantly, it will allow us to reconstruct the discussion that the monologue of the Meditations had with listeners who were difficult to convince that phenomenology, as defined and practised by its founding father, could escape the rut of ‘transcendental solipsism’. For it is this question that - for a long time - subsequently defined the problem, the risk and the task of a primary philosophy. This question furthermore dominated all subsequent philosophical debate, from Sartre to Ricœur, or from Levinas to Derrida.

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