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Thomas Sheehan on Phenomenology

Thomas Sheehan is Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford and specializes in contemporary European philosophy and its relation to religious questions, with particular interests in Heidegger and Roman Catholicism. Before coming to Stanford he taught at Loyola University of Chicago since 1972. He received his B.A. from St. Patrick's College and his Ph.D. from Fordham […]

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A number of you over the years have put in requests for a show on phenomenology with special emphasis on its founder, Edmond Husserl.
And here you go.
Phenomenology served up in a golden chalice with the very best ingredients, the very best recipes, the very best accompanying wine.
I can guarantee that it will never taste as good anywhere else, not even, if I had Edmond Husserl with me in the studio.
Especially not, if I had Edmond Husserl with me in the studio, his writings excited a great many people, but he was not a very good lecturer from
what I gather, and he probably would not have made a great radio guest.
The person who joins me in the studio today, on the other hand, well he's a proven commodity, Professor Thomas Chienn, who teaches religion and philosophy in the Department of Religion here at Stanford, is well known to our long time regular listeners.
The last time he joined me, it was to talk about Martin Heidegger's book Being in Time.
In addition to his expertise on the work of Heidegger, Professor Chienn has worked and written extensively on the philosophical movement known as phenomenology.
Among other things, he has edited and translated a formidable book published by Cluer Academic Publishers.
It's called Edmond Husserl, Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger.
500 Dents and scrupulously annotated pages, a truly remarkable feat of scholarship.
We're going to need someone like him to help us clarify what this movement was all about, because from its very inception, the term phenomenology was fraught with many ambiguities, controversies and misunderstandings.
I contribute to those misunderstandings myself on entitled opinions with my liberal use of the word phenomenological on many occasions.
Indeed, I prefer my own misguided notion of phenomenology to the orthodox dogma of its founder, Edmond Husserl, but we can get into that later, or maybe not, in any case, Tom.
Welcome to the program. Nice to have you back with us.
Thanks, Rob.
As I mentioned, the term phenomenological gets used in pretty loosely in all sorts of different discursive contexts, and I mentioned that I'm guilty a little bit of that myself.
And willfully so, I'll admit, since I insist on calling myself a phenomenologist of sorts, even though I know that my concept of what a phenomenon is does not have any strict bearing on what Husserl might have meant by phenomenon.
In any case, for me, a phenomenologist is someone who allows the phenomenon itself be it a work of literature or a natural object to serve as the ultimate measure or source of what he or she may say or think about it, as opposed, for example, to imposing preconceived or reductionist theories on it.
In other words, close attention to the matter at hand in all its wealth of detail and complexity. I take it that Husserl had more than that in mind when he founded phenomenology as a distinctly philosophical discipline.
So what I and my listeners would like to learn from you today is how the phenomenologists in sense who speak to understood their project and where would be a good place to begin to pursue that question.
Well, one place to begin, if you don't mind, would be with telling a little story specifically about how phenomenology began in France.
It's taken from Simone Beauvoir's autobiography called "In the Prime of Life La Faux de la G'age."
She tells about an encounter in 1929 between Saint-Germain, Jean-Possato, Beauvoir herself, and Rimmain Arron, who had just come back from Germany where he had been reading phenomenology.
Arron, at that time, was a good friend of high-dickers they later became rivals. But in any case, Beauvoir writes, and I quote, "This is on a left bank bar someplace."
Quote, "We ordered the specialty of the house, apricot cocktails, and Arron said, pointing to his glass, Tuvoir monshear, if you were a phenomenologist, you could talk about this cocktail glass and make philosophy of it."
She continues, "Sattre turned pale with emotion at this. Here was just the thing he'd been longing to achieve for years to describe objects just as he saw them and touched them and extract philosophy from the process."
A funny place for phenomenology to begin in France in a bar, but nonetheless, Sattre ran down to the nearest bookstore she recounts and bought a copy of Levenas's book on intuition in Husserl, and that was the beginning, if you will, of phenomenology in France.
And what was it that excited, Sattre? I think it was the "do it yourself" kind of philosophy.
You didn't have to know all the doctrines in the history of philosophy, in fact it was better if you didn't know them. Just start with your own first-person experience, regardless of the subject matter.
It could be that cocktail glass or it could be your own life. That's why, as you pointed out earlier, phenomenology has lent itself to fields outside of traditional philosophy to literature and so on.
So you begin by describing what you're experiencing and how you're experiencing it. Be it a cocktail bar in a cocktail in a bar with friends. The point is freedom, originality, the passion to start over again with your own experience. I think this is what the spirit of phenomenology was, even though Husserl had seemed to make it utterly boring.
But it's what captured a generation, granted this revolution was not exactly what Edmond Husserl had in mind.
Well, that's my suspicion because when I read Jean-Paul Satthe, I say this is exactly what the spirit of phenomenology is all about, where he can write in Le Tréluneo, an analysis of the waiter's dance as he serves patrons in the bar.
He can describe the way the cookette puts her hand on the table or lets her hand be held by her date. He can describe the taste of something sugary and rather disgusting and all.
This is rich phenomenology of the lived world. So when I read Jean-Paul Satthe, I said yes, I identify in a certain sense with that kind of phenomenology.
When I turned to Edmond Husserl, as I've done several times because I want to find out who inspired many philosophers whom I admire, including Hayte Gert, Satthe and others, I find that it is the, as you said, in spirit, somewhat antithetical to this Elon Vitale that comes with the, at least the French phenomenological tradition.
The history of Husserlune phenomenology is really the history of its heresis against that beginning. There are more points in divergence among phenomenologists than there are convergence around Edmond Husserl.
Nonetheless, one of the things that is a continuity, if you will, is the method. That's what Husserl was famous for. He wanted to start philosophy over again by investigating the self, beginning, reground philosophy, beginning with the experiences of your own self.
And it excited this new creative group of young philosophers, even though Husserl could not channel what he was after, which we'll talk about, could not channel that in a direction that he wanted to go.
It was comparable, I think, and contemporaneous with the explosion of modernism in the beginning of the century in cinema, in poetry, in novels, in painting, etc. It had more future ahead of it than Husserl had ever been able to foresee.
What he did, I think they would all agree, is he unshackled them, liberated them from 19th century style systematic philosophy, and set them on their own revolutionary paths.
That would be, I think, what they hold in common, but how it began and how it unfolded does have something to do with the writing style of Edmond Husserl and his publications.
And I guess we could say phenomenology began at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, and it began with two fairly stodgy, thick tomes written by Edmond Husserl, born in 1859, died in 1938, two stodgy tomes called logical investigations.
For your readers, your audience rather, I think the best introduction to that is a fairly longish essay that's available that Husserl wrote called Philosophy as Rigorous Science.
And that title, Rigorous Science, tells you what the logical investigations were really about.
Husserl, who had been raised as a mathematician, really, wanted something like mathematical rigor and certitude for philosophy itself.
He thought that was possible. He wanted to put philosophy on the path of a true science that would be based on logical, rational principles, not based on the psychology of the day, not based on historicism, which was rampant in the day, because these couldn't predict what he wanted.
He introduced what he wanted, namely, Apodictic Certitude, that is to say, mathematical-like, incontrovertible certitude. That's what he thought philosophy needed.
Just to progress for a moment with where he went from there, after the logical investigations at the turn of the century, he published in 1913 ideas volume 1, which manifested a shift of Husserl towards transcendental philosophy in the neo-koechos.
Then, in -- he didn't publish much during his lifetime. Then in 1931, he published Cartesian meditations, which showed his basis in the cart -- the certitude, if you will, of the ago-cogeto of Descartes.
And then after that, he scribbled away endlessly and produced 45,000 unpublished manuscript pages that eventually many of which eventually were published posthumously in the most famous, which had great influence on marital
policy. It's long title as the crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Well, it turns out that most of these writings of Husserl were more introductions to phenomenology rather than actually doing phenomenology. And that's where the most exciting developments in phenomenology come from the heretics, as I've named them. Heidegger, first of all, Levenas, Sat, Merleponti.
Maybe Jean-Luc Mario, we can add contemporary French. So, philosophy as a rigorous science, for someone like me when I hear that, everything kind of gets -- I kind of take a deep breath and say, "Okay, if you will." But it doesn't sound exciting to me, because the ideal of a rigorous science is a very old philosophical ideal.
And so much of modern philosophy is about trying to give this kind of scientific authority to a discourse, which I at least don't -- I think that what it is worthwhile in philosophy is precisely where it does not coincide with scientific discourse. And apodictic certainty and so forth. This, I don't think, can be the real thing that created generated so much enthusiasm among the heretics.
So, we want to talk somewhat systematically about a few aspects of the theory, or to say the doctrine of phenomenology from Husserl's point of view. One is the method, but perhaps you could clarify first what this slogan of phenomenology that everyone was using and everyone kind of interpreted in his or her own way and which led to divergent sort of renderings of what it meant, which, two, that matters themselves.
Or two, the things themselves, that was the kind of battle cry of phenomenology. What did that mean that slogan?
Right. Good question. It meant two big things. It meant what phenomenology wasn't and what phenomenology wanted to be. First of all, what it wasn't. It was no longer systematic philosophy, which I basically collapsed with the
Hegelian system in the middle of the 19th century. It wasn't psychologism that is to say the attempt to base logical laws on psychological processes, which have only a certain amount of
certitude, but not the apodictic certitude that he wanted. Thirdly, it wasn't going to be adjudicating all the old fights that philosophy had been through in its history of philosophy.
And lastly, it was not going to be a revival like neocansionism in the 1880s or even neo-aricitilianism, neotomism in the beginning of the 20th century, which continued up until the middle of this past century.
That's what it wasn't going to be, and that itself was a liberation, as I mentioned. But his motto,
"Sudain zachan zelpst," really means get back to the facts, get back to things as you actually experience them in the first person through intuition and by what you contribute to the establishing of these facts in front of consciousness.
So you would say excuse me for interrupting, please. The zachan, the things, you think facts is a good word for that.
I think it'll work for now. Yeah, get to the-- Because facts can out empirical facts and scientific what science does in terms of determining the matters of fact.
Well, that's what he actually wants to begin with. He's an Aristotelian through his influence by Brentano Franz Brentano, his teacher in Vienna.
Philosophy begins with empiricism. He once even said, "We phenomenologists are the true empiricists."
But then what he did with those facts was the important thing.
All this stuff I've been reading up on, where at least one source in the encyclopedia philosophy that I was consulting said that.
The first thing you have to understand about phenomenology is that phenomenology doesn't--
That its statements are not empirical. That's a founding principle. And it keeps insisting that the statements of phenomenology are not statements of facts in this empirical sense, but of a different order that have kind of validity beyond the empirical sphere.
So is science and empiricism the same thing when you say that philosophy as a rigorous science, it can't mean that philosophy is going to become a form of scientific empirical inquiry.
Positiveism, etc. And the article you're referencing by Richard Schmidt is, I think, over emphasizes the pureness of pure phenomenology.
It does begin with this data intuition. He says that, "Giveer of the beginnings of phenomenology."
But then what he adds to that, if you will, or what he integrates those facts into is a whole new theory of consciousness.
We'll have to talk about intentionality in a moment. But getting to the facts for him had a broad--
And then we can get to the specifics of broad sense of first of all, establishing solid, what he calls scientific foundations, but not positivistic, naturalistic science foundations.
So I have to see what that means. It meant originality of experience. That is to say, don't begin with theories, don't begin with metaphysics, begin with what you're living with right here and now, and with your investment in that.
So it's not just confronting you so that you stare at it, but you want to find out why you're interested in it, concerned about it, invested in it, and how you bring it up to disclosure in consciousness, what he calls constitution. You constitute it as an object of consciousness.
And then thirdly, getting to the facts now, scientific foundations, originality of experience, the third thing was the method, which is really what the phenomenologists who follow share to a certain degree.
And you can even be heresy there, of course. But as I say, he studied mathematics in Birlin, in Leipzig, in Vienna, and that remained his first love.
And so he wanted that kind of rigor. And I think what you're pointing out is that he was about a fool's errand in effect.
It was a futile, last effort to get a perfectly rational system of philosophy, which continues today in certain forms of philosophy.
And it's a quad.
Across the quad, for example, and it's done well there in its own vein, but it was something else that he was after.
He wanted foundations on rock-solid foundational certitude, which would come with the most obvious certitude of all consciousness, the cogito of day-card.
Even though he often said he was influenced by day-card influences not determinism, but it was, they shared that in common. It was a common factor.
But then the originality of experience part is that when you start with that indubitable solid rock foundation and begin with sense intuition, you have to see what intentionality adds to that.
But the result, it's important to realize that from the logical investigations up through the crisis published posthumously, written in the mid-30s, what he was about was a science of all possible science.
What he calls a "visonchafs lere," a theory of science, what Hei de Guell's a bhedoytungs lere. And that means how can we ground all the other sciences on something,
which the natural positivists of science don't take into account, which is consciousness.
Then thirdly, the method, which we'll have to spend some time on, I would say.
But that's, you're right. I mean, it was a last-ditch effort and perhaps a futile one as recognized by his followers.
And so phenomenology has taken entirely different direction towards description and things of that nature.
Well, I guess let's talk about the method I suppose. Consciousness is a trouble term. I was about to ask, is it possible that for all the heresies, those people who are associated with the term phenomenology, all share some kind of investment commitment to consciousness.
And then I thought of Heidegger and I said, no, it can't be. If we're including Heidegger there, consciousness is maybe not a scenic one of doing phenomenology.
Although for such it was, I guess for a middle point of view was and living us and so forth.
Right. Well, I think Heidegger underplays consciousness and it's there implicit in his writings, but he's interested and maybe we can get into this when we discuss Heidegger.
He's interested in what he will call the ontological structural foundations of consciousness.
So if consciousness is subjectivity, he wants the subjectivity of subjectivity as he put in one place.
But yes, I do think that consciousness awareness is part of it all and Heidegger, as it were, drops down a level if we can put it that way inadequately and tries to get to the ontological roots of how it is possible for us to be conscious.
Good. So Tom, going to the method now, before we discuss the different aspects of the method.
Very briefly, again, remind our listeners what was the method's goals? It was to arrive at what you call a podictic certainty, namely indubitable truth at a philosophical level, which was not necessarily empirically referenced.
But yeah, so the method was crucial in this whole operation. Right. For getting to that goal, the word that's most identified with method in Houserot is reductions.
And I think the etymology of the word is the clue to understanding what a reduction is.
It's not reductionism, reducing things to nothing but x or y.
Reduction in Latin, reducare means to lead back to. So he wants to lead the gaze of the investigating phenomenologist back from a naive into a thematically reflective stance.
Now that's pretty abstract. Let me see if we can can break that down.
He calls the naive attitude, the natural attitude. The German word is ein-shelome. It could mean engagement.
The natural engagement that we have with things is in his view, and how do your shares this view?
It's a matter of just staring at things as if through a window so that your involvement with those things is not operative.
Notice it's not brought to the fore. And it means that the natural attitude has no regard for the correlation between what you're experiencing and the experiencing of it.
And what Houserot wanted to do was get away from this naive idea that things are just out there now real.
He wants to find out how I disclose them as what they are. So it's correlation research.
If we can get inside the correlation between the experience and the experiencing without ever, without ever doubting that things do exist out here, that they're real.
But I just want to find out what my investment is in them and where that investment comes from and so on.
So from the natural attitude to this reflective phenomenological attitude by turning the gaze back on my right between the experiencing and the experience and finding out how that
is operative. And that's a major move of Houserot. He abstains from talking about things without regard for the person in, in, engaged with them, right? He abstains from that and the Greek word for that is
He's epochae to refrain or restrain the view and the gaze. So that is often another term, technical term used with reductions.
Now, once you're in the phenomenological attitude, what you're focused on is the relatedness, therefore, between you and things.
I think that's often overlooked in popular notions of phenomenology where you just describe things as they show up.
The description has to be the description of an experience. So he calls these things once they are looked upon within the phenomenological attitude, not things, but phenomena.
Things insofar as they're appearing and being constituted in their appearance by me in some way.
You can see a kind of a neocanchion transcendental philosophy operative there beginning with the ideas in 1913.
So basically, he's treating things only insofar as they are present to mind without ever climbing back into some closet inside the head.
Consciousness is always exterior. It's always outside. There's no inside, right?
And so therefore, relatedness to the self is utterly essential to the description of phenomena which are experiences.
I have to remember that. And after the phenomenological reduction, now that I'm talking about my relation with things, the only questions for phenomenology, and I argue for high-to-gur and levi-nas and hoser, et cetera, and meloponti and also hoser, et cetera, is meaning significance.
What does this thing have to do with me? What is its relation to me? So phenomenology is a science not of the being of things as it were naively out there, but of their relationality, their significance, their meaning.
That's self, which is supposed to be constitutive of the meaning and of the phenomenon.
Does it include the whole individual with body, historicity, situatedness, and so forth? Or is it a Cartesian ego that is largely abstracted from the embodied world of time, history, matter, and so forth?
Is it a pure consciousness? I think Jean-Paul Sash must have thought so because he was quite committed to the idea that consciousness is a poor swa, it's a no thing, it's something that is radically alien or feels alienated from its body from its world now.
Is it the same for Husserl that the self, which the reduction, the phenomenological reduction brings things back to, is a disembodied self?
More the latter in the option that you gave, is it a psychophysical self with a body or is it a pure consciousness? It's more the latter, although Husserl still makes noise about, still talks about the psychophysical self.
In fact, the title of the book that you mentioned, so kindly psychological as well as transcendental phenomenology. So we can do a phenomenology of the interplay of body and mind, but it's mostly the latter that he is interested in.
So certain contemporary researchers in brain, neuroscience, and so forth, they would not necessarily, they would misunderstand Husserl if they take them to be their hero.
I would think so.
Because they want to reduce things back to an actual physical organ called the brain, and then make consciousness and who knows?
So-called hard problem in philosophy of consciousness today is how do you distinguish or do you want to distinguish brain and mind?
But Husserl would not want to go down that road and locate in the actual organ of the brain the source for the constitution of meaning in the phenomenon.
And I think that as you mentioned earlier, he began in the logical investigations with a critique of psychologism which wanted to reduce logical laws to psychological laws and goodness knows we live in a moment of rampant reductionism of this sort if not even worse because it's reduction to neurons and other things.
But anyway, so it's more the latter you said, it's more of a self which is a pure consciousness.
And what does that consciousness do in order to correlate with its object?
Right, good question.
The real correlation would be the nature of consciousness as intentional.
It was going back to what you were just saying.
It was a common phrase among the students of both Husserl and Heidegger when they both were teaching at Freiburg that Husserl is Plato and Heidegger is Aristotle.
The one, as we're dealing with somewhat disembodied pure consciousness and Heidegger on the other hand talking about moods, involvement in the world, practical activity and such things of that nature.
Yeah, to add things, I had all these things that rarely come up in Husserl.
He has a brief passage in one of his 45,000 pages of manuscripts about hunger and it's absolutely hilarious when he talks about what he thinks the phenomenon of hunger is.
Intentionality, I guess, is what we have to deal with as the form of consciousness.
Intentionality is another one of the things like method that everyone else takes over following Husserl even if they don't follow his path.
Intentionality is a recovery of an Aristotelian position.
Intentionality is a feature of consciousness, the feature of consciousness.
An intentionality means that consciousness always has an object.
So, I want to go back to Aristotle through Brentano.
In his book on the soul, book 3, chapter 8, he says, "In effect, consciousness is somehow everything in Greek,
panta, post, somehow it is everything, but how so means we're in touch with everything through this consciousness."
And that's what intentionality means.
It's usually described as directiveness towards something, but I like to think of it as immediate content.
It's something rather than having to take a path out of an inner self to some outer thing, almost with the idea that then you'll bring it back captive to the closet of consciousness.
Sator says, famously, the mind is not a stomach.
You don't feed data into it so that it will get metabolized into representations in your head, which are pure mystification.
Consciousness is spread out over everything. It's painted on the world. It has the world to put it in those terms.
It's the whole self in touch with things. Through their meanings, you can't have physical contact with everything,
but it's the significance of it that you have the contact with.
Heidegger is very clear on this in his courses on Aristotle.
So, being in touch with things in terms of their meaning, their significance to me, is what intentionality is about.
And again, that's against the closet of the mind, the mind as something inside the head, etc.
You have to see that difference in order to understand it.
Although Tom, I can't resist interjecting here, at least, hook on that character in Jompal, that's novel.
He's in touch with things, but what he finds, rather than them having meaning, they're completely absurd.
So, he is an immediate touch with a meaninglessness of things in an intentional way.
Until that experience of February 20th, in the park, where all of a sudden he says, "I see that it's precisely one's involvement with things that lends them their meaning."
And so on, but that's a great example, and a fabulous novel, I think, for philosophical purposes especially.
Once you say that intentionality is immediate contact with things, you have to add, and this is what category of intuition meant in
You're in touch with the meaning of things.
You don't have to argue to the meaning of things.
It's an immediate experience.
The content said, "We have only sensuous intuition. We can touch space of temporal data."
And he had denied any such intellectual intuition to the transcendental self.
"Hustro breaks with the cancer in tradition."
And he says, "No, we do have a category of intuition and intuition of the essence of something, the intuition of to use hide-a-gurs, the being of something."
You mean what something is?
What something is?
How it is, you know, and all of that.
And that's why I had a group so excited about this doctrine that shows up in logical investigations, the second book, "Investigation Six, Chapter Six," called "Categories of intuition,"
where all of a sudden he sees a breakthrough.
We can now talk about what things really are in an intuitive way rather than having to deduce or go through representations and concepts in order to kind of decide what something is.
So, "Categories of intuition is different from something like a Kantian notion of either categories."
"Categories of imperative, were you thinking of them?"
No, not "Categories of imperative," but, you know, for Kant there are things out in the world that you need to access through intuition.
And then consciousness imposes or superimposes, you know, the kind of meaning that they will have this object substance, cause and effect, and all this.
That whole apparatus of meaningfulness is in the side of consciousness, or you're saying that for a host world there is a category, you have an intuition of what the essence of a thing which is not consciousness is in the world.
See, again we have to remember that the field in which he's operating is correlation.
Is correlation.
So, what I'm really talking about is the experience of my relation to that thing.
And that's the essence that he feels that I'm really knowing.
It's not like an Aristotelian sort of staring at something long enough and abstracting from it, it's essential rather than non-essential properties.
Even though sometimes it seems close to that, he spoke of the intuition of essences.
And that's a different thing than "Categories of intuition."
It's actually related.
I think category intuition becomes "Vasen-Show" intuition of essences in ideas, volume 1, in 1913.
It's not as clear in 1901 when the second volume was published, but hide-a-gursies that connection right away and that becomes.
That's the excitement of Satre.
You can actually make philosophy out of description because we're describing not just sense contact, but we're describing our whole relationship with it and what that thing is.
For me, at the moment, if I may go just a little to the side here, hide-a-gursies, hide-a-gurs talks about being and people think it means some white cloud that encompasses everything and keeps them going in the cosmos, which is wrong.
Hide-a-gurs speaks of being, which is "Zine" in German, as "Das-ye-vilig" a "Zine."
The "Zine" at this very moment of something so that a hammer usually is for driving in nails, but if you change the situation, the being of the hammer can change and become a missile, a weapon, or it could be used to weigh down papers in the wind or something like that.
So the being of something, the meaning of something, is changeable, momentary, and so on.
It looks like relativism and hide-a-gurs that we have to confront that relativism. That's the way it is.
So that the essence of something is really, although Hussl doesn't fully recognize this, it's a historical, temporal, momentary, given-ness of something to the interests and concerns of the moment.
I think, I think, Heidegger would say, what Hussl missed in all of this talk of intentionality is that all things come in context and the context influences the meaning of things.
Context of carpentry makes this tool a hammer. The context of a belligerent sea makes this tool a weapon and so on and so forth.
And would the epochae have called for the suspension of context then? In a certain sense, context doesn't come up for Hussl. He speaks of horizons within which we mean things, but the horizon doesn't have that, in my reading, doesn't have that determining influence on the meaning of things.
It's just sort of the range of what you can see at a given moment. Whereas Heidegger would insist that first we know the context, and that's why something could become a telephone.
So Tom, a question here about you mentioned Jean-Paul Sats saying that philosophy could become purely descriptive. Descriptive phenomenology is hugely important for Hussl as well. Phenomenology begins at least, at so, two-part question, what is the relationship between description and the method? And namely, reduction is reduction of form of description.
Or conversely, is description in the phenomenological method only a one stage of a process that then goes on to other parts of the method.
First of all, the reduction is the entree to the description. That's bracketing out things as seen apart from me.
So then finally, now I'm in bed with things as it were, and I can begin to discuss their relationship to me.
Secondly, descriptive operates at two levels, if you will, the description of just the thing is it appears. Seemingly, you're just talking about the physical and spatial deco.
But then there's also description of how that is present to me, which is what the essence of something is.
I think Hussl wasn't as clear on that as Heidegger. Hussl spoke of at least three reductions. The terms are often mixed together, but the three that I think you can isolate are a phenomenological reduction.
The adjective always tells you what you're reducing to. You're reducing things to phenomena, phenomenological reduction.
The so-called "idetic" or "essence reduction," the word "adosin Greek" means "essence," so "idetic" means reducing things to their essence.
Then the transcendental reduction, reducing the whole game back to the source of meaning, the transcendental, pure consciousness in Hussl and Dazin and Heidegger and so on and so forth.
It's that second one, the "idetic" reduction, where Hussl follows Brentano and Aristotle and thematizes what he calls getting to the invariant.
So you vary something. You look at a telephone and you say, "What can I take away that would still leave it a telephone?"
Which means that I have to know what a telephone is in the first place if I'm already taking away things to know what a telephone is in itself. But nonetheless, this method of variation wants to get to the invariant essence of something.
Now, Heidegger substitutes for that, what he calls transcendental constitution, which is, "How does that thing relate to me?"
Let's see what is essential to it. So it's still descriptive, right? More descriptive, I would argue than Hussl's "idetic" reduction is, "The how of presence is the essence."
And that tells me the "what of something." "How it's present in this context at this moment to these people."
So before moving to Heidegger, what he might call that move in his own terminology, so for Hussl, you have a phenomenological reduction, which now you're in bed with things as you say, and you can start describing them and perform this kind of variation using examples and to try to determine what the essence of something is by using a method whereby you keep taking away from a particular example of what a thing is.
Take away color from the table where you get to that point where if you remove one of these, something else, it's no longer the thing it is.
And then now you know what a thing is in its essence, not as an empirical thing, but the essence. I think that's beautiful. I can apply it to a literary work and have done so.
So everything has a certain amount of properties that some of them you can take away and the thing is still what it is. At a certain point, if you take away from Dante's
Vite and all of it, the fact that it's prosy, metron form, it's no longer the text it is. And so you say, "Okay, you're getting to the essence of a book."
Okay, so this is idetic reduction. I like that. The transcendental reduction though is where a lot of people part company with a host rule because there he becomes platonic, he becomes metaphysical.
It's this, you have to commit to a transcendental ego which is the same old story of Western metaphysics, isn't it?
That was definitely the break beginning with Heidegger on the transcendental ego in host rule. That's a very, very good question.
Bert Hopkins, who's Charles Garle has written a whole essay on this, just describing what it's not, but nobody believes all of what it's not.
He tries to make it into an existential subject, which it isn't. Transcendental has many, many different meanings and the meaning that host rule is engaged with is that which gives meaning to something.
The bottom line for giving meaning, that which transcends everything else and is the source of meaning for something.
Now, Mutati's Mutandi's changing things appropriately, we can say that there is a transcendental reduction in Heidegger to the source of meaning.
And he'll find that in the collusion of human being with the meaning process, what he calls the being process.
There's where meaning arises. And there's been a whole movement beginning with Stephen Crowell and other scholars and I consider myself part of that in Heidegger to read him as a transcendental philosopher at that level.
Not the idea of transcending all bodily and natural facts, as it were, in the fashion of Husserl, who in ideas, volume one says, even if the world goes away, the transcendental ego is still present.
I believe Husserl to try and describe and to define what he means by all of that. It's been quite a puzzle for scholars since he wrote that. But that's how platonic he would get, as it were.
But no, the transcendental giver of meaning, if you will, becomes the subject of Heidegger and all of the rest, not always under those terms. Heidegger will sort of avoid that term.
Now, back on the Iedetic reduction, the one thing that doesn't seem to work with an Iedetic reduction is, how would I know that by taking away this last quality, I no longer have a tree or the Vitanova?
So you must have some preknowledge of what the Vitanova was, so that you say, there's the last straw. Now it's no longer the Vitanova. And so Heidegger comes in with his preknowledge, pre-having of the object, pre-understanding of the meaning of it, which comes with this context.
But, you know, Husserl, on the other hand, would say we do have an intuition of essences because we're just have access to it. So we know it. And now it's just a question of knowing what we already know.
Or using the method in order to get to those essences.
Right. In any case, all of this goes back to your question about description and is it one stage and so on.
There's two elements of description, which really interlink with each other. Description of the thing is it's showing up, but in doing that, you're describing how it is present to me now, Dassier-Vila design, the current momentary meaning or essence of this thing.
So talking now about Heidegger, let's talk a little bit about his most illustrious student. I'm going to claim, uncontroversial that Heidegger was. Maybe not that uncontroversial. But Heidegger goes to study with Husserl, becomes Husserl's favorite student, dedicates his being in time to Husserl.
And was teaching at the same time as you mentioned at the University of Freight. And yet, even while he's teaching even before publishing being in time, the students who were taking both of their seminars knew that the guy, the younger one, was doing something quite radical and different from the master.
So what was going on, what was Heidegger's debt on the one hand to Husserl and then the way in which he became one of the heretics, master heretics.
The chief disciple becomes the heretic in chief.
Well, first of all, a little bit about their history, it was actually Husserl came to Heidegger in a certain sense. Heidegger was a graduate student and Husserl came to teach at Freibork.
And then they had a relationship by correspondence only during World War I, and Husserl became enamored of the letters that Heidegger was writing about the force of phenomenology and the passion of it and so on and so forth.
So he adopted him as his assistant and gave him teaching courses, lectures and seminars. But Heidegger was only a lecturer at that time, an unpaid lecturer.
Husserl would give him money and he would collect some money from his students, but he was definitely the minor figure. Nonetheless, Husserl said to him in those years up to 1924, you and I are phenomenology. Imagine.
So Heidegger then goes off to Marburg, some hundred miles, a couple hundred miles away, and in that separation from the master he finally breaks out and can say in effect what he didn't say in front of the master and Freibork.
Eventually he'll come back and Husserl will, with some hesitation, appoint him his successor, get him that job.
But Heidegger first of all was only interested in the logical investigations. He was not interested and the philosophy is rigorous science, which is an introduction to that.
He was not interested in the ideas volume one or in the Cartesian meditations, because for him that was moving too much in the direction of neocantianism and Cartesianism.
Subjectivity. Subjectivity.
Without getting to the subjectivity of subjectivity, which is what he wanted.
Not only was he only interested in the early Husserl, secondly he brought to Husserl a very well established and radical understanding of Aristotle and was able to somehow combine phenomenological method with Aristotle.
And that in his sense I still think is the basic core of Heidegger's work, Aristotle phenomenologized and then taken forward as it were.
So every one of the main doctrines that Husserl had come up with in the logical investigations, he changed.
So instead of intentionality as a form, as an aspect or the essence of consciousness, he said intentionality is the essence of the whole human being, right down to our very being.
Now he gave it a different name, he called it for a while transcendence. And here's what that really means.
For him human being, his code word for human being is being in the world.
Now the world doesn't mean the space of temporal world. It means the world of meanings.
Right. So he says somebody lives in a different world from me. That means they have a different set of meanings for the things that we look at.
So for him, world was meaningfulness. And he says that in the German, but Deutzam kite.
So by being in the world, he meant human being as a priori before we even get to consciousness is inevitably bound up with meaning.
So human being is, I'll say, primal, hermeneutical. But I just say cannot meet anything that it can't make sense of, has to make sense of everything.
So intentionality becomes not just my awareness of things.
It becomes existential.
It becomes existential in his sense of the term.
Existential meaning, having to do with the very existence of a thing, right?
So that's essentially, it gets used in different ways by later followers that Heidegger refused the meaning of, but existential means structural in this case here.
But it also means, because you said that if you take Aristotle and phenomenology and you put them together the way you have Heidegger did, that's the essence of Heidegger.
But the great excitement around being in time was that it uses an existentialist kind of structured, use your word, where he's talking about mood, he's talking about guilt, he's talking about being under death, talking about the inauthenticity of the day selfie.
And all these kinds of things where it really seems like the whole person, rather than just Aristotle with a little bit of an e-n
So the whole thing is transcendent.
So it can be a world of meanings, but that world of meanings doesn't have to be distinct from the actual world that we share in common when we might live in different worlds, but we might bump into the same chair in leaving the office.
You've put your finger on what I think is a major defect in Heidegger's being in time.
He begins by making a distinction between the structural and the personal, your human nature, if I can use that term, and what you do every day.
And he calls the one existential with an AL, existential, we say in German, and the other, the personal, he calls existential.
Now, this is almost a, it looks like wordplay, but it's actually a very important distinction.
Trouble is he doesn't maintain that as you've pointed out throughout the book.
And he often blends the two and you're not sure whether he's talking about the personal or the structural.
When he's describing the angst, for example, he's describing a personal experience that you have that puts you in touch with your existential structure.
But that's structured Tom, we talked about this in our previous show on Heidegger. That structure is dynamic and it's grounded in temporality, human temporality.
Would you say that for Heidegger, whose role is intention, what whose role is intended by intentionality becomes gross o' mode, the temporality in Heidegger?
It does. The only problem is with that is that Heidegger says later and many, many times, "O' by the way, when I was talking about temporality,
I really meant the openness, the world, the clearing." He actually says that. I meant the openness of the world in which things appear.
But that openness is predicated on the intrinsic dynamic of a self-transending finitude of designs, you know, the part that he does that is he says,
"If you look at the traditional God, He's perfectly self-coincident, needs nothing outside of himself, itself, herself."
What are you going to say? But the human being, by being stretched into possibility, is open. That openness is where the game of meaning is played.
I know you think that's in sympathy with Husserol's, get back to the things themselves, let's get back to this correlation of the self and things that would be the phenomenon.
Everything that, as I say, everything he picks up from Husserol, he changes. And so, Husserol used the plural, get to the things themselves.
Heidegger says he used the singular, "Sourza Hazepes, get to the real issue underlying all of this."
Which for him is bound up with, that would take us another hour to go into this, the question of being, and so on and so forth.
He also uses that same method. Heidegger uses a phenomenological reduction, but it's to the being of things, as he says, and so on and so forth.
But what would be the future of all of this we were talking about earlier? In a sense, phenomenology has just become another stock in trade of philosophy today.
It doesn't have that passionate excitement. It does when people use it as you do and as I try to do in the classroom maybe. But in effect, there's no more people doing creative phenomenological work within philosophy.
It's become the locus of reflection by other philosophers doing their philosophy by philosophizing about Husserol or about Heidegger.
So I don't know enough about the German afterlife of phenomenology, but I do know that France was particularly hospitable to Husserol's brand of it because, you know, Derrida writes his first book, I don't know if his first or second, but voila,
and Omen is analysis of logical investigations. The origin of geometry. There's Jean-Paul Satt, as you mentioned, living as there's a maddie on, of course Jean-Paul T.
So, I guess one concluding question would be, Heidegger not existed as, you know, one illustrious disciple of Husserol.
So, would Husserol's phenomenology have had the same sort of importance for at least this group of French thinkers that were so important in that we can only-
We can only guess. I mean, this is about a futuristic as it were. It's true that Saturn in the 30s picks up on Husserol. He is a Husserlian.
Then he, during concentration camp, or prisoner of war camp, he reads Heidegger and all of a sudden, is no longer a Husserlian. And I don't think that you could have had existentialism obviously without that twist, that turn in Satra.
And notice that Derrida, even though he writes on Husserol, is really a Heideggerian.
Yeah, he says he's standing on Heidegger's shoulders.
Maybe Ponti, meldo Ponti is the one pure, necessarily.
I would say, and maybe the one pure descriptive phenomenologist, he's brilliant. Phenomenology of perception and so on.
But I think Heidegger really set the heresies on their paths, as it were, and without him, phenomenology wouldn't have existed as long as it does as has.
Well, I have to say that I am not regretful that Heidegger introduced that kind of heresie into it, because it livened things up a great deal and opened up the possibility for creative misunderstandings.
And as I mentioned in my opening, I'm the first one to be guilty of a creative misunderstanding.
I would say one last thing if I could that you can't understand Heidegger without phenomenology.
People have tried to do that by doing ontology only.
But that's the crooks, that's the core. And that's really only now beginning to come out into the literature, Heidegger as a phenomenologist.
That's great, Tom. Another very valuable show from our guest Professor Thomas Shee and from the Department of Religious Studies here at St. Louis.
The religious studies here at Stanford have a good one, Tom. We'll look forward to having you back in the future.
Thank you. Bye-bye.