Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Quagmire of Phenomenology -- A plea for help -- Help!


I have just enrolled in a new course at Melbourne Uni called "Phenomenology and Existentialism". The abuse of language present in this course is something I feel like a physical pain. There are more buzzwords in this epistemelogical area than stars in the sky. Well, okay, there are about 20, but that's still more than seems strictly necessary. They use phrases like "existence as such" as though they formed some kind of explanation of what they are talking about. I am drowning in a sea of hyperbole.

Please, help.

This is a call to the blogosphere - here is something useful for philosophers to blog about! What is phenomenology, expressed in language I can understand? What is transcendence anyway? What is the difference between existence as such, and just plain existence? What make a phenomenon pure, instead of our every-day rather dirty kind? What is the difference between "bracketing reality as we know it" and mere "suspending judgement"? How do you deal with phrases so abstracted as to have run out of meaning altogether? (This is a little like running out of petrol, only worse)

If I find out through other means, I will let you know.



Anonymous Josh said...

Phenomenology is a particular kind of starting point for philosophy. Instead of immediately positing things 'out there' - rock, duck, tax - we start simply from what we find inside our minds. It is not to deny the existence of these things, but rather, to take the contents of our experience instead as a starting point. What is fundamental are those things that we know firsthand - those textured pieces of experience and feeling of the world that we are subject to. It is only from this that we can start to posit anything about anything else. That's how I understand it, anyway. I'm sorry, it is a bit vague. I often think of literature as phenomenological philosophy - communicating facts not about any 'objective truth', but what existence is like for a human – in a subtle way, that can’t easily be captured by a simple proposition. I wont even try to tackle any of the others. I think the trick with existentialism is to try and connect with it on an emotional level aswell as an intellectual level. Have you never spontaneously felt that intense vertigo and feeling of simultaneous mystery and absurdity at your own existence? This is the sort of thing that phenomenologists are interested in taking apart. This is a feature of human reality which the existentialists are willing to take as something fundamentally important. I think its what Sartre meant by "Nausea." I, however, think "vertigo" is far more description. The feeling, for me, is more like realising that you are walking on a tightrope over the abyss of death. It is both intoxicating and frightening. Nausea seems to suggest a dread for life. I don’t think the true spirit of existentialism has any of this.

3/15/2005 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger mh said...

How is it going now, a few weeks down the track? Still feeling like you're in a quagmire? Or are things starting to take shape a bit? Is it Husserl you're reading, or someone else? Which text(s)?

I'd like to have a chat about this (not that I'm especially well acquainted with phenomenology), but it might be useful to hear how things have progressed for you. It may be that by this stage you can tell me more than I can you (certainly about Husserl, if that's who you're reading).

If you'd prefer email, I'm at sydneytomelbourne [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk

4/05/2005 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Randall Wiedemann said...

OMG! Thank you for this.

11/27/2005 06:55:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home