The Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology 2016

Vocations, Social Identities, Spirituality: Phenomenological Perspectives

by Jana Trajtelová (Volume editor)
©2016 Thesis 175 Pages


The fourth volume of the «Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology: Vocations, Social Identities, Spirituality: Phenomenological Perspectives» presents variety of contemporary authors who explore the problem of vocation and closely related phenomena of personal, social, cultural (and transcultural) identity. They, altogether, point to its indispensable significance for our deeper understanding of the philosophical category of a «person», and a personal community, with all of its moral and axiological weight. The elucidation of our personal and social identities also unavoidably accompanies an ongoing, mutually respectful dialogue with other distinctive cultural life-worlds.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction (Jana Trajtelová)
  • Phenomenology of Vocations (Anthony J. Steinbock)
  • Emociones Morales e Identidad Personal (Mariano Crespo)
  • Phenomenology and the Common World: Husserl’s Interpretation of Philosophy as a Social Vocation (Timo Miettinen)
  • The Decline of Freedom. Jan Patočka’s Phenomenological Critique of Liberalism. (Michal Zvarík)
  • La Paradoja de la Vocación (Patricio Mena Malet)
  • Theomorphic Vocation and the Non-Dual Identity: Frithjof Schuon’s “To Know Is To Be” (Patrick Laude)
  • Transcendence as Creativity: Vocation in Andrei Tarkovsky (Jana Trajtelová / Anthony J. Steinbock)

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List of Abbreviations

The list of abbreviations used in the following contributions

Edmund Husserl

EJ Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a Genealogy of Logic (if there is cited only English translation)

EU Erfahrung und Urteil

Hua Husserliana

Maurice Merleau-Ponty

CN Le Concept de Nature (1956–1957)

PP Phénoménologie de la perception

VI Le visible et l’invisible

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Jana Trajtelová


The fourth volume of the Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology, “Vocations, Social Identities, Spirituality: Phenomenological Perspectives,” has a special significance for me. It is not only because the problem of vocation, personal identity and spirituality unceasingly remain in the center of my scholarly interest and my own existential quest. The theme recently relates the variety of contemporary scholars who are exploring it with new zeal and a sense of urgency. They, altogether, point to its indispensable significance for our deeper understanding of the philosophical (“western”) category of a person, and a personal community, with all of its moral and axiological weight; the meaning of person is that toward which we still fortunately tend to turn to when we are faced with serious social, political or cultural challenges. The elucidation of our personal and social identities also unavoidably accompanies an ongoing, mutually respectful dialogue with other distinctive cultural life-worlds. In order to remain (or to become newly) an open and welcoming universal community (universal and ethical in Husserl’s sense, as Timo Miettinen explores below), we need to expose once more our own cultural roots and traditions to the light of critical and responsible reflections. The question of vocations stands at the very core of such efforts and reaches toward the depths of our individual and cultural self-understanding.

Of course, there are various layers (i.e. socio-cultural, political, ethical, religious and existential) and various aspects of a vocational experience (the human being’s search for meaning, transcendence, desire, call-response experience, service) all of which should be broadly examined; this Yearbook collection does not have such exhaustive ambitions. But hopefully, it will nonetheless make a significant and an exemplary contribution to the broader current philosophical discussions on the theme.

The Yearbook’s authors, as well, take many different paths for approaching the problem of vocation and closely related phenomena of personal, social or cultural (or even transcultural) identity. However, all the different routes converge on a focal point: for the human person, vocational experience always bears moral and spiritual implications.

Pointing toward these implications, let me say several words to recall the original religious significance of “vocation” as it is understood in a western religious conceptual context. (It would be a much more difficult task to inquire whether ← 9 | 10 → there is a real equivalent to the “Abrahamic” experience of vocation in eastern traditions – the article by Patrick Laude points this direction). Turning to the origins of the term’s meaning, the experience of vocation is a profound religious theistic experience. The English word “call” or “calling” serves as the equivalent of the term. Latin “vox” (voice), “vocare” (to call), “vocatus” (called, summoned) stands at the root of the English word (c.15th Century). For the faithful it expresses a “spiritual calling,” a “consecration,” like in sense of a call to a religious life, which resonates in many biblical accounts. Its secularized form appeared later to express a personal devotion to certain occupation or profession.

With respect to the biblical tradition, there is a great variety of “vocational stories” starting with the Abraham’s vocation, ending up with dramatic calls of the prophets. Focusing on the biblical experience, we could inquire into the philosophical significance of the call – response structure and the philosophical meaning of a personal name (and the Name) (“I have called you by name; you are mine” Is 43: 1). Accordingly, biblical metaphysics is the metaphysics of an individual uniqueness of the created, where multiplicity, variety, diversity, and uniqueness are fundamental ontological categories and bear positive ontological value (in contrast to Platonic metaphysics, for example).

For Abraham, taken as an example and an exemplar, the call represents an invitation to transcend, to step out of an anonymity without the name, home, meaning of life and self-understanding; to step out of the natural and cultural pre-determinations; to step out of the “mythical” and its determining pre-given meanings, abandoning the self-made idols of gods and self-images. The call endows him with the new name (as confirming the transcendent relation), with unique and generative meaning of his own individual existence; it moves him (and his descendants) forward within, through, and beyond their historicity toward an open future, a future opened by Adonai. Through the call, the called person appropriates the “new” identity that goes in the orientation of his or her transformative vocational experience. The name embodies the wholeness and perfection of a unique person (in flesh and blood, not as a “perfection” of a mere mysterious or vague “spiritual substance”) essentially inscribed within his or her vocational orientation and realized as a free co-creation. His or her external (worldly) “task” or “narrative” is to be accomplished in a way that only she or he can accomplish: the individual uniqueness enters history, co-constitutes the broader generative movement and at the same time, points beyond itself to the universal call and meaning of “humanity.”

In relation to these biblical roots, we could go even deeper into the most intimate structures and movements of vocational experience by examining the experience of the mystics. One of the most significant aspects of vocational experience ← 10 | 11 → is what I call the precedence of being over doing or simply precedence of loving (to put the former expression loosely in Eckhartian terms, and the latter in terms of John of the Cross). For mystics, it is not so important what one does (as for his external deeds or profession), but primarily how one is – or as we show in the last Yearbook contribution, “to-be-a-stalker” – in Tarkovsky’s unique sense of the term. Doing is rooted in and bursts forth from being, and only as such bears the genuine vocational weight and impact. Deeds and external forms of mystics’ lives are nourished and empowered precisely by their dwelling in their deepest core, remaining in dynamic loving union, profoundly connected with the Source of all being, goodness, and creation. Then, anything can happen, every life event can become vocationally relevant – even the fall or sin (as Augustine, among others, claims). Of course, being must be understood in a very dynamic way, as becoming, and as a creation and co-creation constantly bursting forth. Let me recall that The Sacred Name in Hebrew refers to this unceasing creative dynamics of a Divine Life itself (“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” Ex: 3.14 – from the verb “hayah” usually translated as “to be,” but more properly “to be becoming”). The turn toward the precedence of being, the turn toward the center of loving, is itself recognized as the primordial call. (It seems as if the mystics remain at this starting point where we – not paying enough attention to this precedence of being – hopefully end!).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (January)
Spirituality Person Identity Phenomenology Philosophy
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 175 pp.

Biographical notes

Jana Trajtelová (Volume editor)

Jana Trajtelová works as a Scholarly Assistant at the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Philosophy and Arts at Trnava University in Slovakia. She is a member of the «Center for Phenomenological Studies» at the Department of Philosophy, Trnava University.


Title: The Yearbook on History and Interpretation of Phenomenology 2016
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178 pages