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What is Phenomenology? The Philosophy of Husserl and Heidegger

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

What is Phenomenology?

"The Phenomenology philosophy is a school of philosophy that originated in the 20th century. With Edmund Husserl Phenomenology was born but it was the phenomenology Heidegger innovated that reoriented the course of European philosophy. The Phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger (whose respective philosophies are called Transcendental Phenomenology and Existential Phenomenology) does not seek after external objective truth—as philosophy and science generally do—phenomenology strives for subjective truth—in Husserl’s case it is an attempt to make a subjective science of consciousness. Husserl developed a method for attaining this truth which involves reducing away the noise so as to isolate the essence of a phenomenon. Heidegger parted from Husserl saying that phenomenology could not be a science with knowledge because the meaning of a phenomenon is context-dependent. Heidegger moves from Husserl’s epistemological project to an ontological program. There is a growing scholarship looking at the connection between phenomenology and eastern philosophy. It is even said that Heidgger was influenced in his conception of Dasein as being-in-the-world through a German commentator on Taoist philosopher Chuang-tzu.' from video introduction.

Phenomenology is one of my delights, it makes me think deeply and I believe gives me another view of God's reality. Like Complexity Theory and Fractal geometry we are given yet once more a glimpse of what God has done! - Andy

Below are links several books to explore the subject further.

"The first chapter on Phenomenology concentrates on the work of Jean-Luc Marion. Masterson is clear about the merits of a phenomenological approach as manifest in Marion's account, emphasizing the attentiveness to personal experience, its resistance to any question begging reductionism, openness to religious phenomena, the place of human practice with respect to religious phenomena and its emphasis on faithful description. He goes on, however, to pose fundamental questions that in one form or another are pursued throughout the book. The first objection, as Masterson states it, is that the phenomenological reduction distorts the givens of the natural attitude rather than elucidating them. Independent existing reality is experienced in intuitive perception, and reducing such reality to phenomena ignores that "the phenomena are not the networks of things, but things are the source of phenomena" (21). The second related difficulty is that phenomenology limits the account of the divine to that which is within human experience, while the religious believer's account of divine transcendence involves the claim that God is unbounded by any human experience.

"The independent existence of things seems too weighty a matter to ignore" (31). This issue points for Masterson to the need to go beyond Phenomenology towards other approaches that account for such independent existence and more particularly the transcendence of God, without the restrictions of the phenomenological approach. These are the metaphysical and theological approaches. By metaphysics Masterson understands realist metaphysics, and just as Marion exemplifies phenomenology, Aquinas exemplifies such metaphysics. As Masterson understands it, "metaphysical realism, accepting that a real world exists independently of our representation of it, seeks insofar as is humanly possible to provide an objective impersonal account of it in judgments which strive more or less successfully to conform to it" (34). Masterson pays particular attention here to the analogical concept of being: "one might even speak of a 'metaphysical re-duction' or 'leading back to' the analogical unity of being" (35). His account of Aquinas is clear, informative and illuminating. In particular he shows how Aquinas overcame the limits of Aristotelian hylomorphism. Being for Aquinas is essentially finite, and this is so not due to limitation imposed by other beings, but due to the intrinsic limitations of all beings. All being is composite, and the nature of such composition is that of limited, finite determination. Existence, esse, on the other hands, signifies act not form, which actualizes potency as this being in particular instances. God is pure esse, pure existence, the pure act of being. While essence is correlated to intellect, existence, is not. God is beyond comprehension, because God is beyond being. Act is "the ground . . . of all possibility, of all change, or all perfection" (50). What Aquinas presents are a posteriori proofs of God's existence. The legitimate metaphysical proofs are based on the principle of non-contradiction. Such proofs begin with the seemingly contradictory state of finite beings and show that without affirmation of an explanatory cause beyond finite beings such contradictions cannot be resolved...' from the book: Approaching God: Between Phenomenology and Theology by Patrick Masterson. (link)

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