Here's another Husserl lecture to listen to, which sets Husserl in historical context as a contemporary of Freud prior to World War Two. The unnamed lecturer (I'll be happy to update this post if someone can figure out who this is) talks a little about the relationship between Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Husserl's phenomenology.
The lecturer characterizes phenomena as phenomenology understands them as inherently mental, meaning that "phenomenology of consciousness" would be redundant. As I've tried to convey, I think this characterization of phenomena, i.e. the objects of consciousness, as mental, is problematic: it's entirely the point that consciousness is what puts the mind in contact with things that are not mental, or more precisely, "the mental" is not rightly understood according to Husserl as a distinct sphere from the rest of the world; consciousness is inherently an openness to the world, not a parade of representations that somehow reflect (or fail to reflect) the world. However, the lecturer then goes on to describe Husserl as participating in the tradition of folks who tried to banish Cartesian dualism, which suggests the point I've just made.
In a somewhat confusing part where he describes a sit-com, he discusses the technical term "intentionality," which means directedness towards the objects of consciousness, as if it meant our ordinary definition of the word, i.e. having a plan (intention) to do something. He says that the relation of consciousness to the universe is comparable to having intentions (plans) that don't jibe with the conditions of the outside world.
It's true that the two uses of the term have a common origin, in that one of the attitudes that consciousness can be aimed at the world is through a willing act: having an intention to do something. The phenomenologist's concept of intentionality is a generalization of that to other types of consciousness, in that I can have plans regarding the world, but I can also perceive it, desire it, fear it, etc. I think the lecturer understands this, but continues to say confusing things about intentionality all the way to the end of the lecture, neglecting to mention that Husserl's notion of intentionality modified from the scholastics was the direct and extremely detailed product of one of Husserl's teachers, the psychologist Franz Brentano, for whom intentionality was not something that could be defined in a quick sentence or two but required an entire very large book to prove and elaborate.
Maybe the most useful part of this for the listener new to Husserl is in end of the second and beginning of the third part, where the lecturer goes into some detail describing what it is to "bracket" the existence of the external world as Husserl tries to do.
All in all, this is an accessible talk that works passably as an introduction to Husserl, or as in my own case as a listener, another attempt to make this difficult figure comprehensible. From the context, it's clear that this lecture is part of a larger overview covering both analytic and continental philosophy, trying to give people a basic understanding of these disparate ideas, in much the same manner as our podcast.
The second and third parts of this talk can be found here.
Tom McDonald says
Husserl like Hegel failed to adequately banish the notion of mental ‘substance’ in their respective phenomenologies, even though they both took overcoming dualism as an explicit goal.
Heidegger did a much better job at this in the approach he developed in Being and Time, perhaps mostly by a change in vocabulary: for Heidegger the ‘de-struction’ of the history of ontology is very much a matter of not allowing outdated and inherited vocabularies about being – e.g. “subject” versus “object” – to bewitch our thinking.
Yet by banishing the mind Heidegger went too far in banishing reason and rationality, and he is rightfully criticized for this. There does seem to be a connection here between the banishment of reason and his Nazism.
It seems to me that what is needed is a recognition of the radical temporality of existence and thought discovered by Heidegger in Being and Time but that does not throw reason out with the bathwater of reason’s attempt to constantly eternalize itself or try to make itself beyond time.
Kant and Hegel are instructive here: reason and conceptual thinking are the form of rule-making, we recognize patterns in nature and we set rules for thought in the human world.
But somehow this rule-making ability gets reified and we start thinking it represents a ‘substance’ like a ‘thing’ in nature, and so we start turning ‘the mind’ into a reified ‘machine’, something which would tell us the determined basis of ourselves and the human world.
And of course this is evil because it is the self-imprisonment of human thought, simply bewitched by prior thought.
I highly recommend a book by John McCumber along these lines wherein he argues that we need to recognize the pivotal importance of Heidegger’s existential insights and critique of Western thinking, but we also need – for ethical reasons – to go beyond him by developing a temporalized concept of mind and reason at peace with finitude:
Andrew McHarg says
This lecture is by Chris Horrie, Professor of Journalism at UOW. You’re right in assuming the talk is part of a wider look at the (journalistic) context of philosophy.
Dennis Matthews says
This lecture is so off the mark, it should be taken down.