Analytical Philosophy, the Structure of Consciousness and Husserl’s Phenomenology
Published by Routledge in 2005, The Constitution of Consciousness: A Study in Analytic Phenomenology, authored by Wolfgang Huemer, is also available in Open Access at the Open Commons of Phenomenology website, as part of the Open Commons of Phenomenology collection.
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
Through the work of twentieth-century and contemporary philosophers, such as Wilfrid Stalker Sellars (1912-1989), Donald Herbert Davidson (1917-2003), and John Henry McDowell (1942-present), the question of how the mind is related to the world has gained new importance in present-day analytic philosophy. Thus, Wolfgang Huemer’s book demonstrates that Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl’s (1859-1938) classical phenomenological analyses of the structure of consciousness can provide fruitful insights for developing an original approach to these questions.
This is how Wolfgang Huemer presents the theoretical rationale for this philosophical work:
“The main goal of this book is to sketch a picture of the relation between mind and world that acknowledges these differences without asserting that there are two different kinds of substances. Mind and world are not seen as two opposite spheres, but rather as parts of a whole. The basic claim of this account is that we constitute the objects towards which we are directed in our mental episodes. This does not mean, however, that we create these objects, nor does it mean that we interpret something as something else. In perceptual experiences, I will argue, we are immediately directed towards objects in our environment that exist independently of these experiences. The theory of constitution describes how this relation can be established. The basic notion of the account that I am going to develop stems from Husserl’s phenomenology. By using some of Husserl’s results in the context of contemporary analytic philosophy of mind I combine two major traditions of twentieth century philosophy. In the last three decades, various philosophers have pointed out that these two traditions have far more in common than is generally thought. It was argued, for example, that Husserl’s philosophy, especially his early writings, has many parallels with Frege’s; it was also documented that there was serious interest in phenomenology among early analytic philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Gilbert Ryle, and even among some members of the Vienna Circle. These historical studies have provided a more accurate perspective on the history of twentieth century philosophy, bringing to an end the myth of the big and insuperable gap between analytic philosophy and the phenomenological movement. In this book I will take a different approach, though. Rather than pointing out the historical parallels, I will try to do analytic phenomenology by using some of Husserl’s results in the framework of analytic philosophy. I will set up this framework on the basis of the Sellarsian/McDowellian distinction between the logical space of reasons and the logical space of nature. Once we accept this framework, we face the difficulty to explain how these two logical spaces can be related. I will propose that Husserl’s insights can be very fruitful for addressing this question. Even though I will systematically address a problem central to the philosophy of mind, this approach, if successful, also allows me to pursue a historical goal, namely, to demonstrate that these traditions are not incompatible. I will completely bracket the historical dimension of the relation between Sellars and Husserl—even though a quite interesting story could be told about this aspect. My strategy is rather to show how we can use Husserl’s results to address problems of contemporary analytic philosophy of mind and, in this way, to make a strong case for the claim that Husserl’s phenomenology is not merely a chapter in the history of philosophy, but that it is highly relevant in the context of contemporary philosophy of mind” (Huemer, 2005, pp. 1-2).
Edited by Pablo Markin
Huemer, W. (2005). The constitution of consciousness: a study in analytic consciousness, 2nd edn., Routledge, London-New York. Accessed September 9, 2020. http://ophen.org/pub-141549.
Featured Image Credits
Miami – Wynwood: Wynwood Kitchen & Bar – Shepard Fairey, Miami, Florida, USA, December 20, 2011 | © Courtesy of Wally Gobetz/Flickr.