Lived Experience: an Introduction to Phenomenology
What is phenomenology? Drawing on lived, first-person experience, phenomenology is the attempt to analyze and understand the very structures of human experience and consciousness. What are the elements of perception, and why do different people, different subjects, perceive things differently? What’s universal about consciousness? In what ways do individual identity, circumstance, history, language, and memory condition lived experience—and thus perception and our ability to express it? Phenomenology and phenomenological ways of understanding the world stand at the center of many contemporary scholarly inquiries, from philosophy to anthropology and far beyond. What can we learn through studying the foundations of phenomenological thought concerning objectivity, subjectivity, meaning, mind, and truth?
In this course, students will study phenomenology as a philosophical movement from its origins to the present day. We will aim for a critical understanding of the distinctive methodology, fundamental claims, problems and prospects of phenomenology by working through some key texts of its most influential proponents. After considering Franz Bretano’s and Edmund Husserl’s attack on “psychologism” (or, the reduction of consciousness and rationality to mere psychology), we’ll examine Husserl’s classic Logical Investigations, which gives definitive treatment to the phenomenological theory of “intentionality.” Next we’ll turn to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s attempt to incorporate “embodiment” into the phenomenological tradition. Lastly, we’ll consider phenomenology’s influence on contemporary discussions in cognitive science on “motor intentionality,” and skilled behavior. Is the study of the experience of phenomena a philosophical or ultimately a scientific question? Indeed, what can a study of phenomenology tell us about the natures of philosophy and science and the boundary that divides them? How do we learn from lived experience?
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
October 20 — November 10, 2022