Phenomenology Husserl and Heidegger Object

Phenomenology is one of the slipperiest of philosophical methods. It can also be one of the most complex. Modern phenomenology is ineluctably bound up with the names of Edmund Husserl (i®59-i93®) and his successor in his Professorship at the University of Freiburg, Martin Heidegger (i®®9-i976).377 And, as Paul Ricoeur insists, while Husserl's thought does not constitute the sum total of phenomenology, it lies at the very heart of that philosophical method.37®

Husserl's phenomenology has been characterised as seemingly bizarre379 and also the result of his opposition to psychologism.3®0 In the author's first edition of the Logical Investigations, Husserl calls phenomenology 'descriptive psychology'.3®1 We may share, perhaps with some feeling, Ricoeur's view that, by itself, the word 'phenomenology' is not very helpful or lucid.3®2 The word is, however, usefully defined as the 'science of appearances or of appearing'.3®3 In answer to the question of reaching an understanding of Husserl's approach to philosophy and evaluating what Husserl was really trying to do, Jaakko Hintikka suggests that one way is to characterise Husserl's phenomenology as 'a theory of intentionality'.3®4

The Cambridge Companion to Husserl provides one of the simplest definitions: phenomenology is 'the study of "phenomena" in the sense of the ways in which things appear to us in different forms of conscious experience'.3®5 However, Husserl believed that philosophy could be transmuted into 'a rigorous science'.3®6 This was no less true of his philosophical method, phenomenology. The latter for him had three sequential key elements, technical terms which appear in a variety of guises through his various writings: epoche, eidetic reduction and cognition. These terms were expounded in a series of five lectures which Husserl gave at the University of Gottingen between 26 April and 2 May 1907.3®7

(1) Epoche has been translated as 'bracketing-out'3®® from a phenomenological perspective or, as Ricoeur puts it, an abstention from pronouncing on the ontological aspect of what appears; one should concern oneself only with what appears qua appearance.3®9 (2) Eidetic reduction or abstraction implied a focus on the essence.390 In the perception of a chair, for example, the pure perception becomes a universal.391

The object of 'nonsensory intuition' is pure essence, and it is the job of eidetic reduction to separate that which is general (essence) from that which is particular in the realms of intuition.392 (3) The third step in this sequential process for Husserl's phenomenology is to see how the 'objects of cognition are constituted in cognition'.393

Martin Heidegger followed Husserl at Freiburg and built upon the latter's thought, as Heidegger himself acknowledged.394 He stressed powerfully in one of his greatest works, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), that phenomenology was primarily a philosophical method and concerned itself with the modality of research rather than dealing with the objects of that research from the perspective of what they actually are or were.395 For Heidegger, a phenomenon was 'the self-showing in itself', and the word referred to a distinctive manner in which something might be met.396 'Phenomenology' itself was encapsulated in the maxim 'To the things themselves!'397 Heidegger held that phenomenology was the gateway to ontology. The latter was only possible because of the former.398 Indeed, philosophy itself can be designated as 'universal phenomenological ontology'.399 Phenomenology unveils or uncovers that which is veiled, hidden or covered in terms of phenomena. And Heidegger identifies 'being covered up' as phenomenon's 'counterconcept'.400

This brief survey of the beginnings of modern phenomenology, a movement which coincided neatly with the start of the twentieth century,401 is not intended to be an exercise in philosophical archaeology. Phenomenology still has much to offer, whether it be at the surface level of empathy and the total suspension of all value judgements, on the one hand, or the much deeper and profoundly rigorous insights of a Husserl or a Heidegger. Sokolowski believes that there is still a huge attraction in the idea of 'the isolated consciousness'. And, for him, there is much more to be unearthed in phenomenology for those who want it.402 This volume will attempt to deploy and apply some of the more general insights articulated by the great phenom-enologists of the twentieth century.

Phenomenology, then, is a particular way of 'looking' or 'seeing'. Its positive purpose is to focus on clarification and restoration rather than the negativity of doubt and rejection.403 It can neatly be applied to a religion such as Islam: a phenomenology of Islam would discuss what Sokolowski calls 'the manifolds of appearance proper to religious things'.404 Identity can be structured in a myriad ways.405 Thus a cube has many different facets but it also has an individual, recognisable identity regardless of the sides, angles and profiles by which it is perceived.406 Three different expressions, one perhaps in a foreign language, can convey a single meaning.407 Similarly, a single religion such as Islam, Christianity or Judaism may have a single phenomenological identity but manifest that identity in manifold ways.

The modern phenomenologist is a spectator, a 'detached observer' an onlooker.408 The Husserlian tool of epoche still has profound meaning and substance in our own age: we refrain from judgement, neutralise our 'natural intentions' and, with the suspension of belief, 'we bracket the world and all the things in the world'.409 We also strive to have some insight into the essence of the things we see and encounter. Eidetic intuition, then, is a vital and living possibility in twenty-first-century phenomenology and no more an aspect of an antique philosophical archaeology than epoche itself.410

We note, by way of concluding this section, the comments of Hubert Dreyfus, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He suggests that 'Husserl was important in a reactionary way'. He stood at the end of the Cartesian tradition which defined the relationship of man to his universe 'in terms of subjects knowing objects'. Husserl himself believed that the philosophical tradition which culminated in himself stretched back as far as Plato.411 We can note and refute. After Husserl came Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-61), who in 1945 produced a major work entitled The Phenomenology of Perception.412 Edward Husserl may thus be considered more accurately as a Janus figure whose philosophy looks both backwards and forwards: back at least as far as Descartes; forwards towards our twenty-first century. Some of his valuable insights will be used in broad outline in this volume to illuminate certain aspects of Islam in our own age.

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