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Husserlian advances in Phenomenology

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Husserl’s idea of ​​phenomenology

Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology is first defined as a transcendental science that seeks to bring to light the universal structures of objectivity. The first objective pursued was to ensure an indubitable foundation for the sciences and for this to shed light on the theoretical conditions of all possible knowledge.  The project of phenomenology was first to refound science by going back to the foundation of what it considers as acquired and by bringing to light the process of sedimentation of truths which can be considered as eternal.

Phenomenology offers a new apprehension of the world, completely stripped of naturalistic conceptions. Whence this leitmotif of the phenomenologists which is the return to things themselves. Phenomenologists thus illustrate their desire to apprehend phenomena in their simplest expression and to go back to the foundation of the intentional relationship.

Husserl thus hopes to escape the crisis of science that characterizes the twentieth century. It is with the diverted resumption of the concept of intentionality, borrowed from his master Franz Brentano, that Husserl devotes his first steps in phenomenology. Its principle is simple: all consciousness must be conceived as “consciousness of something”. Consequently, phenomenology will take as its starting point the description of experiences of consciousness in order to study the essential constitution of experiences as well as the essence of this experience.

Husserl’s fundamental intuition, from this point of view, consisted in bringing out what he calls the “universal a priori of correlation”, which designates the fact that the phenomenon as it manifests itself is constituted by the subject , that of which each thing has, each time, for each man a different appearance. However, Husserl does not fall into relativism, on the contrary, since he asserts that this subjective correlation is an essential necessity. Which means that the being is not otherwise than it appears to us, there is no longer a thing-in-itself.  In this sense, we can therefore say that phenomenology is a science of phenomena, but on condition of understanding that it has a descriptive vocation of lived experience (subjective experience). For all that, the constitutive activity of the subject of the correlation should not make believe that phenomenology would be a pure subjectivism. As Merleau-Ponty puts it, “the real is a solid fabric, it does not await our judgments to annex phenomena”, and consequently, “perception is not a science of the world, it is not not even an act, a deliberate stance, it is the background against which all acts stand out and is presupposed by them.”

Husserlian phenomenology also wants to be a philosophical, that is to say universal, science. From this point of view, it is an a priori science, or eidetic, namely a science which states laws whose objects are “immanent essences”. The a priori character of phenomenology opposes Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology to psychology descriptive of his master Franz Brentano, who was nevertheless, in other respects, a precursor. In this sense, phenomenology must be distinguished from usiology, which, as a philosophical science, aims to study essences independently of any exclusively constituting subjectivity.

Escaping these traditional determinations, we note for the record the radical dimension of the interpretation of this thought by his private secretary Eugen Fink in his work On the Phenomenology.

The concept of Intentionality

“Phenomenology is Intentionality” asserts no more and no less, Levinas. Heidegger would agree to this statement, but it is still necessary to specify the contours he gives to the concept of “Intentionality”, a concept which he draws mainly from the fifth and sixth “Logical Investigations” of Edmund Husserl, which he himself had inherited from Brentano, note Jean Greisch.

General features of the concept of intentionality

The “Intentionality” which is since Franz Brentano, a “pointing towards”, is no longer an external relation, but an “internal structure to consciousness” underlines Jean Greisch. With Husserl this consciousness will no longer be considered as a simple container, receptacle of images and things, which it has been since Descartes; the act of consciousness becomes an intentionality aimed at a necessarily transcendent object, specifies Françoise Dastur.

The same reasoning is to be applied to acts of representation whatever they are, each one draws its meaning from the specificity of the intentional act. “All object-knowledge is always simultaneously knowledge that the ‘I’ has of itself, and this is not merely a psychic fact, it is much more an essence-structure of consciousness” understands of its side Eugen Fink.

The fact that “Intentionality” is an “a priori” belonging to “the structure of lived experience and not a relationship built after the fact” brings a specifically phenomenological meaning to the notion of act and in particular with regard to the act of representation which, according to Heidegger, can take two different directions, the naive path which tells us, for example, that this armchair is comfortable and heavy, or the other which will worry about its weight and its dimensions.

Concept structure

It is to Husserl that we owe the discovery that knowledge implies at least two successive intentional moments (which Heidegger will bring to three), a first act corresponding to an aiming for meaning which is subsequently fulfilled by an intentional act of fulfillment. Heidegger will know how to remember this in his theory of Vollzugsinn or meaning of “effectuation” which dominates his understanding of facticial life and which follows two other intentional moments, the Gehaltsinn (meaningful), and the Bezugsinn (meaning). It is the intentional structure of facticial life that gives us this ternary.

Categorial intuition

In the sixth of his “Logical Investigations“, Husserl, thanks to the concept of “categorial intuition”, “manages to think the categorial as given, thus opposing Kant and the neo-Kantians who considered categories as functions of the understanding”.

We must understand this expression of “categorial intuition” as “the simple grasp of what is there in flesh and blood as it shows itself” says Jean Greisch. Applied to the end, this definition authorizes the overcoming of simple sensible intuition either by acts of synthesis, or by acts of ideation.

An example of the extraordinary fecundity of this discovery is given to us in the advances it allowed to free Heidegger from the shackles of the attributive meaning of the copula. In the proposition “the table is badly placed”, “the intertwining of the noun and the verb causes the proposition to add to the isolated terms, a composition which connects and separates, showing a relation irreducible to a formal relation, a relation on which it is grounded rather that it does not ground it”.

(Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu)

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