Research Profile: John Martis

Research Interests

What is the self, and do accounts of “I” and “me” and “myself” “hang together” philosophically in the era following Immanuel Kant? John’s research 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.

Research Supervision

John is open to supervision of research projects touching on the general area above, or related philosophers or topics. 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.

John considers it a privilege to work ecumenically in a Uniting Church faculty.  He has an office at Jesuit Theological College, Parkville, and teaches and conducts research for Pilgrim Theological College.

Research Publications

Subjectivity as Radical Hospitality: Recasting the Self, with Augustine, Descartes, Marion and Derrida: Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017. 181 pp.

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe: Representation and the Loss of the Subject. Perspectives in Continental Philosophy, 50. New York: Fordham University Press, 2005. 296 pp.

“The Religious Elephant in Heidegger’s Phenomenological Room.” Pacifica 29 (3) 2016: 244-260. 

“Philippe Lacoue Labarthe”. Entry in Peter Gratton and Marie-Eve Morin, eds. The Nancy Dictionary (Edinburgh:Edinburgh UP, 2015).

“Divinely Related Subjectivity De-Limited: Poststructural Hesitations Refreshing the Imago Dei as Foundational Figure in Gaudium et Spes 12-15″, in Kirchhoffer et al. (eds), Being Human: Groundwork for a Theological Anthropology for the 21st Century (Melbourne, Australia: Mosaic Press, 2013), 77-95.

“A Philosophy of Subjectivity for our Globalized Era” Studies on Life and Culture 22 (2011): 137-154.

“The Subject of Religion” Theology and Philosophy 19 (2011): 123-147

“The Self Found Elsewhere: Phenomenological Faith meets Deconstructive Doubt”. Pacifica 22 (2) 2009: 198-214.

“Awaiting Faith: Jacques Derrida and the Impossible Encounter with Death.” Pacifica 18 (1) 2005: 1-17.

“Living Away From Home – and Loving It: Tweaking a Christian Metaphor.” Pacifica 15 (2) 2002: 123-137.

Thomistic Esse – Idol or Icon? Pacifica, 9 (1) 1996:55-68.

“Postmodernism and God as Giver” The Way 36 (3) 1996: 236-44