BSc(Hons), BA, BTh, MA, PhD
Reverend Dr John Martis SJ is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Pilgrim Theological College and a member of the Department of Philosophy at Catholic Theological College.
As a Jesuit (member of the Society of Jesus) he was ordained to Catholic priesthood in 1991, and received a PhD from Monash University in 1999.
What is the self, and do accounts of “I” and “me” and “myself” “hang together” philosophically in the era following Immanuel Kant? Research by John Martis focusses on subjectivity, particularly in relation to the possibility of a coherent philosophical or post-philosophical account of the self. Most recently, it investigates the possibility of a poststructural subjectivity drawing jointly upon phenomenological and deconstructive perspectives.
For some years now, in phenomenological and deconstructive circles alike, and even when these two fields engage each other, a lacuna has been evident when the question of a viable account of subjectivity surfaces. Deconstruction treats the self that is the subject of experience as “lost”, ceaselessly self-differing and deferred. Phenomenology has struggled to provide a subject decentred enough from the self to be capable of receiving the other as such.
As regards deconstruction, the untimely passings of Jacques Derrida (2004) and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (2007) have deprived us of two of the most subtle and vigilant protagonists of subjectal loss, and of the thesis that the self is always “found elsewhere”. The phenomenologist Jean-Luc Marion has evolved an account of subjectivity as a capacity to receive, purely, phenomena saturated by sensation, in which the Other manifests as itself. But doubt lingers that the hope of thus “decentring” the subject, away from the all-assimilating transcendental ego, is an illusion.
John’s own investigations began with a study of Lacoue-Labarthe, developed from his doctoral study: Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe: Representation and the Loss of the Subject (Fordham University press, 2005) in which he explored Lacoue-Labarthe’s pursuit of the ways in which the self becomes lost “between literature and philosophy”. Beginning there, and moving towards engagement with fellow poststructuralists of Lacoue-Labarthe, the phenomenologists Emmanuel Levinas and Jean-Luc Marion, among others, in a series of journal articles, he moved towards proposing the possibility of a self neither lost (to deconstruction), nor under some description found as an “other” (in phenomenological investigation), and which might better be called a self-in-loss. Such a self, the substance of which is ceaselessly constituted and reconstituted, as it were, in an intermediacy between “givenness” by another and the renewed receptivity of a transcendental ego, is also open to description in terms of religious faith, and the discussions had by theologians on the relation of the Divine, as absolute Other, to human selfhood.
These considerations have been brought together in the book, Subjectivity as Radical Hospitality: Recasting the Self, with Augustine, Descartes, Marion and Derrida (Lexington Books, 2017). John continues to explore both the philosophical and the religious coherence of this self in loss, as these can be related to other accounts in the field, particularly accounts cognisant of faith, such as those of Marion, John D Caputo, Kevin Hart, Michel Henry, Jean-Yves Lacoste and Claud Romano.
John Martis is open to supervision of research projects touching on the general area above, or related philosophers or topics.