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Phenomenology and Philosophy
of Mind collects essays that take up the recent trend of reconsidering and
reacquiring the phenomenological movement for the philosophy of mind and the
The book is divided into five
parts. The first part 'The Place of Phenomenology in Philosophy of Mind'
contains essays by Paul Livingston on logical analysis, Galen Strawson on
intentionality and Taylor Carmon on the 'inescapability of phenomenology'. The
second part 'Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge' has essays by David Woodruff
Smith and Amie Thompson on reflexive content and first-person knowledge, as
well as an essay by John Bickle and Ralph Ellis on phenomenology and
neurophysiology. In the third part 'Intentionality' Johannes Brandl deals with
the 'immanence theory of intentionality' and Richard Tieszen on abstract
entities. The fourth part 'Unities of Consciousness' contains essays by Wayne
Martin on 'the logic of consciousness', Sean Kelly on temporal awareness and
Kay Mathiesen on collective consciousness. In the fifth part 'Perception,
Sensation, and Action' Clotilde Calabi deals with perceptual salience, Charles Siewert
with sensorimotor intentionality and José Bermúdez with bodily awareness.
Although the title refers to
phenomenology in its entirety the articles focus mainly on Edmund Husserl as
the founder and leading figure of phenomenology. One paper deals with Brentano,
as a fore-runner of phenomenology. Four papers have a second focus on Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
Alfred Schütz is mentioned (as 'Schutz') in passing. Sartre plays no role at
Relating a traditional
(philosophical) approach to current state of the art theories may take at least
the following six forms. The list from top to down shows a decreasing
commitment to a literal reading, but an increasing argumentative strength. The
essays in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind are mostly placed on the
lower half of the list.
(a) One may argue
for a return to the traditional theory. Although literal in its
understanding of, in this case, phenomenology, the problem of this approach is
that it cannot explain, why the theory went out of favor in the first place. Historical
accidents (like missing translations etc.) to the side leaving theories behind
usually has reasons which are still in force. In the worst case this approach
may lead to rationally insufficient motivated swings of the pendulum or
fashions with respect to theories. Fortunately no-one in Phenomenology and
Philosophy of Mind takes this stance.
(b) One may re-introduce a
theory by removing some of the theses which caused its major problems, i.e. opt
for revision. In this vain Woodruff Smith and Thomason 'take Husserl to
be a realist, not an idealist' (10). This is a major revision, since for Husserl
after 1905 (i.e. the Husserl of 'pure phenomenology' mostly referred to in the
book) idealism is not an add-on, but the crucial ingredient for his
transcendental theory of constitution and 'genetic phenomenology'.
(c) A version of
revision which does not announce itself as revisionary is denial, the
strategy to re-interpret some major thesis as claiming something else. So
Livingston claims that Husserl's eidetic reduction (of experiencing
essences) is a version of conceptual analysis as practiced in the analytic
tradition. This misses the central point that Husserl's method is crucially
exercised by a sole subjects relying on (immediate) 'evidence' whereas
linguistic analysis secures the objectivity of its findings by relying on intersubjective
meanings of a public language. A difference that resulted in the ascent of analytic
philosophy and the demise of eidetic phenomenology.
(d) A neutral, but not
very exciting position can claim that the traditional theory is compatible
with recent findings or state of the art theories. This justifies why one may
still cling to the traditional theory, but gives no reason why one should do
so. Positively it shows that there is a continuous thread of theoretical
developments. It integrates the traditional theory into the present picture. Bickle
and Ellis argue, in the first part of their paper, that contrary to first
impressions Husserl's phenomenology is compatible with recent neurophysiological
data on inducing phenomenal states by microstimulation of the brain. Brandl
proposes that on a proper reading Brentano's theory of immanent objects may be
a theory of mental representations.
(e) The mostly
applied strategy when returning to traditional theories is partial usage.
Partial usage takes up theses that contain at least some content that goes beyond
current state of the art theories. The aim of turning to the traditional theory
is to identify blind spots of current theories or supplement them, or solve
some of their problems by resources already present in the traditional theory.
Many of the papers in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind are examples
of partial usage. Thomasson sees Husserl's 'phenomenological reduction' as a
method that not only distinguishes itself from inner-observation accounts, but
may contribute to a current theory of the structures of self-knowledge. Kelly
criticizes current theories of the Specious Present with Husserl's theory of
time consciousness. Mathiesen works towards a theory of collective
consciousness as collective simulation, taking its clues from Husserl and Schütz.
Siewert and Bermúdez use Merleau-Ponty's theory of embodiment and
non-representational knowledge of one's body for more comprehensive theories of
visual attention and action.
(f) The least
literal, but in a way argumentative strongest, since less historically
compromised, position is congenial development, i.e. working in way very
similar to the traditional theory without adopting some of its specific methods
or theses. Given some broad general idea of phenomenology a proponent of this
strategy argues systematically for its tenets. Somewhat in this fashion
Strawson argues for the thesis that only conscious states can be intentional
states. Woodruff Smith presents an overview of his phenomenological theory of
reflexive content (relating a perception not only to its content but
simultaneously to the perceiving subject).
Phenomenology contains resources
and ideas that can support and promote progress in the (analytic) philosophy of
mind. Although biased towards Husserl (in some ways of reading him) Phenomenology
and Philosophy of Mind shows how to use phenomenology in a fruitful way.
© 2006 Manuel Bremer
Manuel Bremer, Heinrich-Heine-Universität