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Contemporary Philosophy: Introduction to Phenomenology National University of Ireland Milltown Institute April 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Contemporary Philosophy: Introduction to Phenomenology National University of Ireland Milltown Institute April 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Contemporary Philosophy: Introduction to Phenomenology National University of Ireland Milltown Institute April 2008

2 Introduction to Phenomenology Phenomenology and its Predecessors Edmund Husserl Martin Heidegger

3 Introduction to Phenomenology Phenomenology and its Predecessors Edmund Husserl Martin Heidegger

4 Introduction to Phenomenology Phenomenology and its Predecessors Phenomenology is both a philosophical movement and method. It is many things to many people and its definition is hotly contested in a way that is, perhaps, symptomatic of the heterogenous development within contemporary philosophy. It is perhaps most helpful to think of it as a solution to a problem.

5 Introduction to Phenomenology Phenomenology and its Predecessors Phenomenologists assert that the study of phenomena is the correct and most primordial objective of philosophers.

6 Introduction to Phenomenology Phenomenology and its Predecessors This would be in contrast to: Ethics - The Study of Right and Wrong Epistemology - The Study of Knowledge

7 Introduction to Phenomenology The field of Phenomenology begins with Plato and his Allegory of the Cave: Plato argued that people uneducated in the forms would mistake the shadows on the wall for the real thing. Put another way we could say that they would mistake the phenomena with the real thing itself. The was the birthplace of the classical greek distinction between:

8 The Form and its Phenomenon

9 Phenomenology and its Predecessors Reality Versus Our experience of reality.

10 Phenomenology and its Predecessors Or put another way: The distinction between things themselves and our experience of them.

11 Phenomenology and its Predecessors The problem of the (im)possibility of objective experience has been a focus for Metaphysics since the beginning of philosophy and has consequences for nearly all branches of philosophical thought. Phenomenology is an attempt to answer this (seemingly) basic question:

12 Phenomenology and its Predecessors How can we have knowledge of the world, as it really is?

13 Phenomenology and its Predecessors How can we distinguish between the shadow of a rabbit and a rabbit?

14 Phenomenology and its Predecessors Despite having its roots as far back at Plato; Phenomenology came into its own in the work of the German turn-of-the-century Philosopher Edmund Husserl

15 Introduction to Phenomenology Phenomenology and its Predecessors Edmund Husserl Martin Heidegger

16 Edmund Husserl Edmund Husserl was born April 8, 1859, into a Jewish family in the town of Prossnitz in Moravia, then a part of the Austrian Empire. He went to school in Vienna and was a mediocre student keen on Mathematics and Science Went to Leipzig University and continued his studies in Maths, Physics and now Philosophy. After a spell in Berlin, he completed his PhD Studies in Vienna on a theory of the calculus of variations in In 1886 he went to Halle and wrote on a theory of numbers, was baptised as a Christian and the next year was married. They h ad 3 children one of which died during the First World War at Verdun. In 1916 he was appointed to professorship at Freiburg University. It was there that he acquired the brilliant protégé, Heidegger. Later, during the Nazi persecution of the jews Husserl, with the help of his own student, Heidegger, was removed from office at Freiburg. Before dying in 1938 he likened himself to a great explorer who has discovered the promised land of Phenomenology. The cultivation of its fields would only come after his death.

17 Phenomenology and its Predecessors How can we have knowledge of the world, as it really is?

18 Phenomenology and its Predecessors Descartes also approached this question. Employing the method of radical doubt he concluded that the only thing that one can know with certainty is that a thing is doing some thinking: Cogito Ergo Sum This thinking may be described as Rationalism.

19 Phenomenology and its Predecessors In contrast Empiricists approach the problem by rejecting the existence of extra- worldly phenomena like ideas/spirit/soul and seek an explanation from observable phenomena.

20 Phenomenology and its Predecessors

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23 Edmund Husserl What is Phenomenology? CONTRA Descartes and Locke, Husserl argues that in order to answer the question of how we can have knowledge of the world ; we ought to turn our attention to the study of our experience of it. Phenomenology studies the structure of various types of experience including: Perception Thought Memory Imagination

24 Edmund Husserl What is Phenomenology? The structure of these forms of experience typically involves what Husserl called "intentionality", that is, the directedness of experience toward things in the world, the property of consciousness that it is a consciousness of or about something. According to classical Husserlian phenomenology, our experience is directed toward things only through particular concepts, thoughts, ideas, images, etc. These make up the meaning or content of a given experience, and are distinct from the things they present or mean.

25 Edmund Husserl Returning to the Hammer

26 Edmund Husserl As what do we experience this hammer? It is many things to many people. To a carpenter it is a TOOL. To a retailer it is MERCHANDISE.. To a killer it is a WEAPON. To a lecturer it is a PROP. To my girlfriend it is a NUISANCE. To a communist it is a SYMBOL.

27 Edmund Husserl Describing experiences? Feelings? Emotions? Fantasies? Dreams?

28 Edmund Husserl If this all sounds a bit like Psychology…..it should! Husserl was greatly influenced by the fledgling discipline pioneered by his contemporaries:

29 Edmund Husserl Franz Brentano Sigmund Freud William James

30 Edmund Husserl Logical Investigation Objective Facts Psycho-Logical Investigation Subjective Events

31 Edmund Husserl Critique of Science Husserl argued that the scientific method was delusional. The impossibility of casual passive observation meant that the notion of 1.Observing the world 2.Discerning Patterns 3.Deriving Laws Was not as simple as scientists would have us believe. Rather, our attention is always directed at the object of our experience and so before the scientist can only prove the accuracy of their original assumption. Put simply, Science was not fundamental in a way that would satisfy Husserl Because if refused to concede the presuppositions upon which its enquiries were based.

32 Edmund Husserl noesis The intentional process of consciousness is called noesis. Phenomenology describes the objects of consciousness. noema, The Ideal contect of noesis is noema. Phenomenology also describes consciousness itself. In this way it seeks to draw from both scientific and psychological descriptions of the world. The Objective and Subjective are correlative but never reducible to eachother. In order to draw the distinction between these two different ways of our experiences of the world he employed two greek terms:

33 Edmund Husserl The Phenomenological Reduction The purpose of this inquiry into the structure of experience is, remember, to provide a basis for knowledge about the world. Husserl argued that all consciousness is consciousness of something. There is always something towards which consciousness is directed. Therefore: If we are to gain knowledge about the object of consciousness we must first examine consciousness. The consequence of this is that consciousness is the pre-condition for knowledge. Let us return to our hammer.

34 Edmund Husserl The Phenomenological Reduction Let us consider the following: Each of us is currently having an experience of the hammer. We are having a noesis of this object. However we are unable to get knowledge of noema or the thing in itself because we are unaware of the schematic, psychological and scientific preconceptions upon which our experience (noesis) rests. Husserl argued through a radical reduction, it is possible to bracket off these schema and gain knowledge of the thing as it is in itself. In what he describes as an epoche the subject [brackets off] the natural attitude. The place to begin this enquiry is from our own experience of the world. From Our first-person-point-of-view.

35 Edmund Husserl The Phenomenological Reduction In the phenomenological reduction one needs to strip away the theoretical or scientific conceptions and thematizations that overlay the phenomenon one wishes to study, and which prevents one from seeing the phenomenon in a non-abstracting manner. The Epoche is the moment in which we break free from our everyday experience of the world. An everyday experience in which we rely upon unquestioningly and unaware of a number of the suppositions of science. This moment is transcendental. If the epoche is the name for whatever method we use to free ourselves from the captivity of the unquestioned acceptance of the everyday world. Then the reduction is the recognition of that acceptance as an acceptance.

36 Hammer Reduction Let us return to our hammer; we have already spoken about the different ways we may encounter it, as a tool, a weapone etc. But have we gone far enough? Our questioning is only beginning. What are the assumptions governing your experience of this hammer at this moment? Scientific Assumptions Perceptive Assumptions Sociological Assumptions How do these affect your experience?

37 Martin Heidegger Heidegger was a protégé of Husserl’s and subscribed to many of his ideas. However, he had his own ideas about the method of Phenomenology. Husserl ‘bracketed out’ the question of the existence of the real world and focussed instead on the fundamental experience of consciousness within It. This has been characterised as a transcendental turn and has inspired much comparison with Buddhist meditation. For Heidegger the transcendental turn was the wrong move for phenomenology. Heidegger argued that ‘bracketing out’ the question of the existence of the real world was not helpful. For him, the study of experience had to being where experiences occur and for whom. Heidegger proposed that Phenomenology was a ‘fundamental Ontology’. Put simply the description of experiences has to begin with People in the World.

38 Martin Heidegger Phenomenologist Ontologist Philosopher Nazi

39 Martin Heidegger Ontology Epistemology seeks to answer the question: How can we have knowledge? Ontology seeks to answer the question: What is Being? Heidegger concurred with Husserl that neither radical empiricism or rationalism would provide a solid understanding of our experience of the world. For Heidegger however the goal of phenomenology was not to allow an access ‘to the things themselves!’. The goal of phenomenology was to make transparent the Being of Being transparent to the Being for whom Being is an issue. Put another way:

40 Martin Heidegger The Hammer has no Being-in-itself. The Being for whom Being is an issue is the human being (Dasein). Heidegger makes the distinction between: Being Sein beingsseindes If Phenomenology is to describe our experience of the world; then it ought to begin with the most basic experiences. Things like our experience of picking up a hammer to put up a shelf. As what do we experience the hammer? We experience it as a tool ready-to-hand to be employed in the process of hammering.

41 Martin Heidegger The most important experience that phenomenology has to provide an account of is the experience of being. For Heidegger then Phenomenoloy was transformed into fundamental Ontology.

42 Martin Heidegger Ontology He seeks to describe this entity we call Being (Da-Sein) in its average everydayness. He denotes the categories of experience as existentiale: In answer to the question: What is Being? Heidegger replies that a fundamental and reflective approach to descriptive phenomenology reveals the following categories of Being: Being-In-The-World Being-With-Others Being-Towards-Death

43 Martin Heidegger Being-In-The-World It does not make sense to talk of experience occurring outside-of-the- world as in the Cartesian exercise. Dasein (Being) is always being-in-the-world at a certain place and time. But the World should not be thought of as a collection of objects as under the extreme empiricist viewpoint. Rather the World is understood as the horizon in which experience takes place. Being is Being-In-The-World.

44 Martin Heidegger Being-With-Others Being in the world is Being-With-Other people. This signifies that we are with other Beings in a way more complex than we are being alongside beings. How is this kind of Being-With-Others characterised? It is characterised by our caring about other people. Being is Being-With-Others

45 Martin Heidegger Being-Towards-Death To be is not to be. One of the fundamental facets of Being is the fact that all Being is Being- Towards-Death. Being is Being-Towards-Death.

46 Martin Heidegger Hermeneutics Hermione was a messenger between mortals and gods in ancient Greece. She was also a terrible trickster figure and would often deliberately miscommunicate the messages of the gods. This obfuscation inspired the school of thinking called Hermeneutics. Heidegger wrote that Ontology is the Hermeneutics of Facticity. Factical objects in the world are never uncovered without preconceptions.

47 Martin Heidegger Authentic and Inauthentic Being: A Qualitative Distinction For Heidegger one could have an authentic or inauthentic attitude towards one’s Being. As what does one experience oneself in everyday existence? It is both shocking and unnerving to hear that in everyday existence we do not experience ourselves as anything like we truly are. Instead we have an inauthentic apprehension of our selves. Most tragic is an inauthentic being-towards-death.

48 How to Philosophise with a Hammer To conclude our example of the hammer: The Cartesian/Rational Approach would deny the possibility of having certain knowledge; under the method of radical scepticism. The Empirical Approach would affirm the scientific existence of the hammer but would give us no information about the hammer as we experience it. The Husserlian Transcendental model would ask us to gain knowledge of the hammer as-it-is-in-itself by bracketing off the presuppositions and schema that we bring to the act of perceiving it. The Heideggerean/Hermeneutic model would argue that the hammer has no Being. Any knowledge we can gain about the hammer must be first examined for hermeneutic impurities and is subject to change.

49 In Conclusion What are the common threads of Phenomenology? 1.In order to gain knowledge of the world we must examine experience. 2.To achieve this in a fundamental way we must avoid all existing preconditions to our understanding of experience: Sciientific, Historical, Aesthetic, Historical. 3.A demand that we reject the stale, arid and non-vital examination of the world typified by Neo-Kantian tradition. Experience is a living, vital and wet thing. 4.A desire to enhance the richness and vitality of everyday lived experience. 5.A fear and avoidance of the kind of thinking that results in the doubting of the existence of the ‘outside’ world.

50 Sartre’s Nausea as Phenomenology Sartre’s Nausea can be considered a definitive phenomenonological text; describing the experiences of its protagonist in vivid and incredible detail it Is perhaps the best description of the moment at which a person experience’s The groundlessness of existence and for Sartre this radical freedom of self-determination dispelled his Nausea. “


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