My philosophical point of departure is premised on Phänomenologie, that is, the philosophical movement founded by Husserl in Germany whose problems were taken up by thinkers such as Heidegger and others. Given that—as Ricoeur (1987) has shrewdly observed—phenomenology is so heterogenous that its history could be depicted as the history of Husserlian heresies, sometimes navigating through the quirks and theoretical quandaries undergirding the phenomenological tradition turns out to be a titanic undertaking on its own. However, a proper understanding of phenomenology is fundamental for an adequate grasp of contemporary philosophical thinking, given that phenomenological philosophy is at the basis of most subsequent theory formations in European thought and has rapidly become important in Asia and America as well.
Be that as it may, engaging almost exclusively in conceptual discussions of high theoretical difficulty could give the impression that phenomenology is some sort of scholasticism adopted by some nostalgic thinkers getting entrenched in specific remits of armchair philosophizing. It is not difficult to imagine phenomenology as a closed community adhering to some discourse set by a particular group of philosophers and founding texts. On a similar line, Schnädelbach (1981) has criticized a sort of ‘being-towards-the-text’ that characterizes great part of contemporary philosophical practice. On Schnädelbach’s view, this ‘philosophische Krankheit’ is the morbus hermeneuticus: the idea that philosophical thinking consists in reading the work of philosophers, so that philosophy takes place where philosophical texts are interpreted. Thus, the actual practice of philosophizing would be conflated with mere textual exegesis. The idea behind this line of criticism is this: phenomenology does not actually allow us to go back to the ‘things themselves’ (die Sachen selbst) constituting experience, for our attention is rather turned toward the very history of Husserlian heresies. Shouldn’t this history of conceptual nature be rather secondary with regard to the proper phenomenological research practice? Isn’t this merely history of philosophy and not philosophy itself?
However, phenomenological philosophy—albeit theoretical in its very essence—is far from an exclusive dedication to foundational texts, although there could certainly be textual endeavors of such exegetical nature, partly because—unlike science—the conceptual history of philosophy is not exogenous to philosophical practice itself. It might be true that alchemy, as a historical antecedent to chemistry, bears no importance whatsoever with regard to the current practice of chemistry, but the same cannot be said of philosophy, whose concepts lay deep within its own history. Are philosophers like physicists who would be more preoccupied with the history of their field than with the actual investigation of the physical universe? Not at all, for philosophical reflexion is rooted in its effective history (Wirkungsgeschichte) in such a way that, in determining the historical reality of our existence, prejudices (Vorurteile) are far more fundamental than our own judgements (Urteile), as Gadamer (1990) has rightly put it.
According to Husserl (Hua III), phenomenology must be credited for having uncovered a new region of being never before delimited in its peculiarity; a region of being which is not present-at-hand and therefore also not beholden to objective characterization. This dimension pertains to philosophical reflection alone and phenomenology has been instrumental in discovering that philosophy and the sciences do not just have a different perspective on the same topics, but different topics altogether.
I am currently working on the ensuing book projects:
· Dreyfus and Phenomenology. The Critique of Cognitivism and Its Discontents, author.
· Iniciación en los problemas contemporáneos de la fenomenología, editor, editor.
Dreyfus and Phenomenology is nearing completion (a 90,000 word manuscript is in the offing). The book presents Dreyfus’s thought in a series of debates concerning the assumptions of cognitivism, the primacy of phenomenology over logical analysis, the conceptualist/nonconceptualist divide, the prospects and possibilities of a Heideggerian cognitive science, and Dreyfus’s own phenomenology of absorbed skillful coping and background practices. However, my tribute to Dreyfus will be critical and not only expository, given that I will part ways with Dreyfus’s understanding of phenomenological philosophy. Ultimately, this should allow a more detailed examination of a phenomenology by means of a critique of its pragmatization, which is how phenomenological philosophy has been received when applied to cognitive discourse. Thinking with Dreyfus against Dreyfus—on occasion by means of deepening his ideas or by a parting of ways with them—is what I consider paying tribute to his legacy. A legacy which can only be transmitted and sustained by a critical assessment of its possibilities and a more profound understanding of its meaning.
Iniciación en los problemas contemporáneos de la fenomenología will be a collection of essays that seeks to introduce readers to phenomenology focussing on contemporary philosophical problems and discussions in which phenomenological philosophy is deeply engaged. The chapters will be penned by members of the CCF and other Latin American phenomenologists who have been invited for the occasion. A table of contents with chapters and authors will be posted here in due course.
Gadamer, H.-G. (1990). Hermeneutik I. Wahrheit und Methode. Gründzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik. Gesammelte Werke Bd. 1. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck).
Husserl, E. (Hua III). Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. (Erstes Buch: Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie). Husserliana Bd. III. (Ed. by W. Biemel). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950.
Ricoeur, P. (1987). A l’école de la phénoménologie. Paris: Vrin.
Schnädelbach, H. (1981). Morbus hermeneuticus: Thesen über eine philosophische Krankheit. Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Philosophie. Vol. 1, 3-6.