Philosophy 420        The Phenomenological Tradition
 
                Despite Husserl’s intent, phenomenology has not turned out to be a movement with a single method or unified theoretical approach.  Instead, phenomenology today embraces the work of authors who have in different ways challenged Husserl on almost every point of his work.  What the various phenomenological trends have in common is the requirement that philosophy reconsider its problems on the basis of an enriched sense of experience, including the experience of thinking itself.  The result has been a fruitful reflection on both theory and experience in a context in which the relation of reason to the world has been ever more confusing and contested.  With Husserl, we will explore the initial phenomenological program and some of the wider problems it opened up.  Then with Heidegger, we will see how, on phenomenological grounds, philosophy becomes ontology and the subjectivity in whose terms phenomenology was conceived is put into question.  With Levinas, we will see the attempt to rethink the significance of phenomenology and ontology from the standpoint of a reflection that puts ethics at the center of its concerns.  Here we will encounter an approach to others that puts the problem of intersubjectivity – a central issue in phenomenology – on a new footing.  Finally we will review Derrida’s extension of the linguistic aspect of phenomenology as he challenges Husserl’s most basic self-understanding.  Though this means a rejection of the initial organizing themes of phenomenology, it follows from a variation on the phenomenological demand that we question our abstractions in the face of a critical examination of our experience as thinkers and as agents. 

syllabus     assignments      links     forum