Friday, August 15, 2008

Kelly, Sean. "Review of David Woodruff Smith's HUSSERL." TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT April 25, 2008.

So what exactly is phenomenology, and what precisely does it have to offer? It is useful to return to Sartre. What excited him so much about the prospect of phenomenology, as we saw, is that it is devoted almost entirely to describing things. Indeed, description is so central to phenomenology in all of its phases that Heidegger could say, in one of his early lecture courses, that "the phrase descriptive phenomenology is, at bottom, tautological". Description stands in contrast to all the other things a philosopher might be doing when engaging philosophically with a given domain: causal explanation, rational reconstruction, transcendental argument, conceptual analysis, theory-building, and so on. The idea behind phenomenology is that simply describing the phenomena, as completely and accurately as possible and without importing into the description unwarranted presuppositions about how the domain described is or must be, is already a devilishly difficult project. And one can see why. If one has tacit presuppositions about what the phenomena of a given domain are like - as one is bound to with any sufficiently interesting domain - then learning to separate out the phenomena as they actually are from one's presuppositions about them will require a certain kind of discipline. The commitment to this discipline was implicit in the famous battle cry of the phenomenologists: "Zu den Sachen selbst!" ("To the things themselves!"). . . . Read the whole review here:

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