existential phenomenology

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The development of existential phenomenologyFrom its 19th-century forerunners to Husserl and Heidegger

Painting by Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)

Prepared by Noelle Leslie de la Cruz, Ph.D. Philosophy Department, De La Salle University

Forerunners in the 19th century

Existential phenomenology{ Subject: The individual } Kierkegaard & Nietzsche: The individual and Christianity { Method: The mind/consciousness } Kant: Categories of the understanding

Individual subjectivity The emphasis of existentialism on the individual is a reaction to religion, specifically Christianity Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche objected to Christianity, but arrived at different conclusions. Kierkegaard merely sought to critique it, while Nietzsche rejected it altogetherSren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Individual subjectivity Contemporary existentialists may thus be divided into two camps (in Sartres classification): 1. The theistic existentialists Karl Jaspers, Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel 2. The atheistic existentialists Martin Heidegger, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert CamusSren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Forerunners in the 19th century

Existential phenomenology{ Subject: The individual } Kierkegaard & Nietzsche: The individual and Christianity { Method: The mind/consciousness } Kant: Categories of the understanding

Kants a priori concepts For Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), our knowledge of the world is always filtered through our mental categories, or the a priori concepts

Kants a priori concepts The a priori concepts come before experience, and make knowledge possible. E.g.

Clouds: Quantity - Unity, plurality, totality

Traffic lights: Quality - Affirmation, negation, limitation

Tree: Modality - Possibility, actuality, necessity

Kants a priori concepts Kants view of knowledge thus emphasizes the role of the mind as a filter for how the world appears to us This led to the distinction between phenomena (how things appear to us) and noumena (the things in and of themselves) For Kant, we can only know phenomena; the noumena or things-in-themselves are inaccessible to us

The phenomenological tradition

Edmund Husserl 1859-1938 Martin Heidegger 1889-1976

Jean-Paul Sartre 1905-1980

The phenomenological traditionHusserlian phenomenology: Emphasis on presuppositionless or transcendental knowledge

Edmund Husserl 1859-1938 Martin Heidegger 1889-1976

Heideggerian phenomenology: Study of Being and the existential structures of Dasein, i.e. what it means to be human Sartrean existentialism: Shift of focus from existence per se to the freedom entailed by our existence

Jean-Paul Sartre 1905-1980

Back to the things themselves! Husserl was the father of phenomenology. He was concerned with the search for a truly presuppositionless philosophy He exhorted philosophers to go back to the things themselves. Through the use of the phenomenological method, he believed that we can arrive at the essences of things (which Kant claimed were inaccessible to us) Phenomenology is based on the Greek word phainomenon, meaning to appear In the phenomenological method, we restrict ourselves to how things appear in consciousness, bracketing everything else

Back to the things themselves!from Simone de Beauvoir, The prime of life (1960): . Raymond Aron was spending a year at the French Institute in Berlin and studying Husserl simultaneously with preparing a historical thesis. When he came to Paris he spoke of Husserl to Sartre. We spent an evening together at the Bec de Gaz in the Rue Montparnasse. We ordered the specialty of the house, apricot cocktails; and Aron said, pointing to his glass:

You see, my dear fellow, if you are a phenomenologist, you can talk about this cocktail and make a philosophy out of it!

Raymond Aron

Back to the things themselves!from Simone de Beauvoir, The prime of life (1960): Sartre turned pale with emotion at this. Here was just the thing he had been longing to achieve for yearsto describe objects just as he saw and touched them, and extract philosophy from the process.

The phenomenological tradition

Edmund Husserl 1859-1938

Husserlian phenomenology: Emphasis on presuppositionless or transcendental knowledge

Martin Heidegger 1889-1976

Heideggerian phenomenology: Study of Being and the existential structures of Dasein, i.e. what it means to be human Sartrean existentialism: Shift of focus from existence per se to the freedom entailed by our existence

Jean-Paul Sartre 1905-1980

The problem of Being Philosophy since the time of Plato has neglected the problem of Being, because of the following three propositions: That Being is the most universal concept That the concept of Being is indefinable That Being is of all concepts the one that is self-evident

The problem of BeingThe question of the meaning of Being must be formulated. If it is the fundamental question, or indeed the fundamental question, it must be made transparent, and in an appropriate way.

Heideggers new contribution to philosophy is the asking of this question

The problem of Being Heidegger refers to the human being as Dasein, which literally means there being Dasein is the only being for whom Being is an issue. Of all entities, only the human being or person cares about the question or issue of existence

The problem of Being Furthermore, for Heidegger, Dasein becomes inauthentic when he or she forgets Being, by living unreflectively under the influence of other people (the they) Thus, Heideggerlike Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (whose writings he revived)emphasized individual subjectivity

The phenomenological tradition

Edmund Husserl 1859-1938

Husserlian phenomenology: Emphasis on presuppositionless or transcendental knowledge

Martin Heidegger 1889-1976

To be discussed in detail under a separate topicJean-Paul Sartre 1905-1980

Heideggerian phenomenology: Study of Being and the existential structures of Dasein, i.e. what it means to be human

Sartrean existentialism: Shift of focus from existence per se to the freedom entailed by our existence

Summary and conclusion Existential phenomenology thus unites two strands of thought from the 19th century: 1. The emphasis on individual subjectivity, which can be traced back to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche 2. The relationship between mind or consciousness and the world, which can be traced back to Kant The main issues in the philosophy of the person are those that were important to the existential phenomenologists writing in the 20th century

Summary and conclusion In the main areas of philosophy, we ask questions like: What is real? Does God exist? What and how do we know? What is the good?, etc. Meanwhile, in the philosophy of the person, the questions have more to do with ones existence as a being-in-the-world: Am I free? What are the implications for me of Gods existence or nonexistence? How am I to relate with others? Does life have any inherent meaning?

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