In his fascinating new book, leading phenomenologist Anthony Steinbock intervenes in contemporary debate around the idea of the gift through a set of critical readings in which he situates the gift in the context of interpersonal relations.
While taking up the key figures in the discussion (Heidegger, Derrida, Marion, Henry, Maimonides), Steinbock proposes the following: that these discussions of the gift are really not about the gift. He demonstrates, through critical interpretations and phenomenological analyses, how the gift only becomes meaningful in the context of interpersonal loving. The gift is not the point: “it’s not about the gift”. The gift becomes most fully what it is, following Maimonides, in participating with others toward their liberation. The point is the interpersonal relation of lover to beloved, which allows the gift to appear.
Introduction / 1. The Surprise, the Gift, and Humility / 2. What Gives? Heidegger, Machination, and the Jews / 3. Overcoming Forgetfulness: Henry’s Challenge of Self-Givenness / 4. The Poor Phenomenon: Marion, Givenness, and Saturation / 5. Resituating the Gift in Maimonides: Participation and Liberation / Conclusion
Anthony J. Steinbock is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Phenomenology Research Center at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. His many publications include Moral Emotions (2014), Phenomenology and Mysticism (2007), Home and Beyond: Generative Phenomenology After Husserl (1995) and the English translation of Husserl's Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis (2001).
Gift-giving is not simply about patterns of exchange or even giving without return; it presumes a rich context of experience: aesthetic, moral, and above all the motivation of love. Steinbock guides us through the dense phenomenological tradition of gift and givenness and, in his attention to beauty, goodness and love, adds something new, fundamental and unforgettable to the discussion.
Steinbock's analysis of the enigma of the gift is phenomenology at its best. At once engaging with our everyday experience of giving and givenness and deploying the richest contemporary research on the subject in Heidegger, Derrida and Marion. This work is a rare gift of thought in its own right.
It's Not About The Gift is a highly important contribution to contemporary philosophy of intersubjectivity and sociality. It challenges fundamental assumptions and intuitions of the gift-theoretical approach dominant in continental philosophy and offers an alternative based on Steinbock’s rich and multifaceted phenomenology of emotions. The book will initiate a new phase in gift-theoretical debates concerning the foundations of ethics and will also stimulate contemporary social phenomenology.