Enter the Phenomenologists

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In ordinary, waking life consciousness is absorbed in the world of its concerns; it is "given over" to the things it experiences. Using the language of intentionality, we can say that although consciousness intends objects in the world, for the most part it is lost in what it intends and so is not aware of itself as intentionally directed toward these objects.

But occasionally a shard of lucidity breaks through this patina of absorption, and we become, for a moment, aware of ourselves as watching the scene, listening to the rain, etc. Philosophers long ago learned to exploit this peculiar human ability to self-reflect, developing a method we call "introspection" that enabled them to "inspect the contents of the mind.

For this reflection is as yet completely unconcerned with the ontological status of the objects of its experience. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. As a scholar of Husserl and Reinach, I see a lot of potential ties to my own work.

Marty is one of many forefathers that both the analytic and phenomenological traditions share, and we should celebrate this man and his mind rather than divide ourselves into camps. Hey, we both share great taste in Austrians of the 19 th century! Brentano and his students were immensely productive, interdisciplinary and incredibly brilliant; they changed the 20 th century dialogue for philosophy — period.

That being said, I highly recommend this book for both scholars of analytic philosophy and phenomenology, as well as those interested in the topics discussed between its covers. Since the exegete exists historically and must hear the word of Scripture as spoken in his special historical situation, he will always understand the old word anew. Always anew it will tell him who he, man, is and who God is, and he will always have to express this word in a new conceptuality. Thus it is true also of Scripture that it only is what it is with its history and its future.

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With Husserl, it takes up once more the dream of phenomenology as an absolute science, that is to say, a presuppositionless science that as such is able to ground all positive sciences. Exploring this analogy by operating a kenotic reduction , he sets up a phenomenology of Scripture in which the phenomenological method and Scripture mutually clarify one another It is in this phenomenology of Scripture that contemporary Biblical criticism ought to be grounded, according to Wells, because it alone does not let itself be restricted by dogmatic presuppositions that arbitrarily impose limits on how and to what extent the experience of Scripture enters the field of inquiry.

Only this phenomenology would be presuppositionless, thus forming an absolute science of Scripture , that is able to ground the scientificity of positive Biblical criticism. Of course, this simply ignores the fact that said dream could very well be both a metaphysical ideal and a practical necessity at the same time : as it was for Kant, for whom the moral God is needed to make the scientific endeavour meaningful whilst remaining himself outside the scope of that endeavour, which secures the very nature of ethical reasoning as distinct from science and thus able to ask such questions about science.

The first half of the book executes that phenomenological transformation by spelling out what Wells means by absolute science. The phenomenologically transformed conception of absolute science Wells ends up with is then the following. So far, so Husserlian. For his understanding of the absolute , then, Wells turns to Fink, who defines the absolute as the synthetic unity of the whole of transcendental life, not merely the constitution of objects, but also the transcendental act of phenomenologising itself.

That is to say, phenomenology is absolute because it maintains itself in a circular self-referentiality: the transcendental reflection on the constitution of objects itself leads to a transcendental reflection on the phenomenological method, which then in turn renews the transcendental reflection on constitution.

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Consequently, if phenomenology is going to be complete, if it is going to investigate all aspects of transcendental subjectivity, then it must investigate its own investigation, in the form of a transcendental theory of method. As a scientific practice on the part of transcendental subjectivity, phenomenology is within the process of genesis even as it evaluates the generation of givenness. This is an impressive and sound argument.

Wells, as it were, gives us no entry into the hermeneutic circle. Yet, this is entirely the point, for it is here that absolute science becomes an absolute science of Scripture, that phenomenology becomes a phenomenology of Scripture, which follows from the radicalisation of phenomenology as such. That is to say, following Fink, Scripture is a positive phenomenal element, transcendental reflection on which leads inevitably to transcendental reflection on the phenomenological method itself and thus fleshes out that method makes it leibhaftig.

Having made the bridge between phenomenology and Scripture—namely that, to be a properly absolute science, phenomenology must be performed or applied to particular phenomenal elements, in this case Scripture—, we can now consider how Wells performs phenomenology, how he develops his phenomenology of Scripture as an absolute science of Scripture in the second half of the book. This kenotic reduction is a bold but perhaps flawed idea. Just as man is the transcendental subject closed off to its own living depths, so too all human possibilities are closed off to the inner transcendentality of the subject.

Man cannot as man phenomenologize, that is, the human mode of being cannot perdure through the actualization of phenomenological cognition.

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Performing the reduction means for man to rise beyond to transcend himself , it means to rise beyond himself in all his human possibilities. It is therefore odd that this further radicalisation of transcendental subjectivity as explicitly un-humanised is taken over by Wells without reflecting on it critically at all even though, as I said, the quotation returns multiple times, giving him ample opportunity. What does it mean to say that in doing phenomenology we would somehow transcend our humanity as such?

qojumakezu.tk What could possibly be left of me, or of any consciousness, once I have transcended my humanity? Not even reduction can lift us out of our humanity, for even the reduction must first surely be initiated by finite human beings existing in the world: even the phenomenologist as phenomenologist is finite; Husserl is dead. Let us be human beings. This Entmenschlichung can also be questioned theologically, this time not in terms of the reduction, but in terms of what functions here as its analogue, namely kenosis and its incarnational character.

The very idea that one who is equal to God … would choose to become human and become crucified is completely at odds with worldly notions of divine power and authority. From the worldly standpoint, it makes little sense to forgo divine power in favour of human existence and slavish death. This, in my view, gets it precisely the wrong way round: that it is a human being doing something inhuman is precisely the point. If it were simply God who chose to die as a slave, would we really be all that bothered?

It is a human being, in which God has emptied himself of his divinity and taken on the full existential reality of the human being, [9] who chooses to do something in-human—precisely that is what makes up the scandal of the Christian story and its power: worldly hierarchies are turned upside down from within the world itself by an event that transforms the structure of the world, opening it up from within unto the kingdom that is coming.

If uncritically relying on an un-humanised transcendental subjectivity is problematic, it surely is even more so when this transcendental subjectivity is identified with God.


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In reduction, man rises above the world as the pre-given ground of truth and value, and therefore exceeds worldly possibilities. This extraordinary claim, which amounts to a theologisation of the reduction in which transcendental cognition is identified with divine cognition and the transcendental field itself with divine creative activity, strikes me as unprepared by the argument and therefore unwarranted phenomenologically in spite of the language Fink uses.

In other words, a theological leap is performed here that must be resisted by phenomenology precisely as phenomenology until its legitimacy can be established phenomenologically. Yet, after so much reduction, after such a thorough cleaning out of our conceptual apparatus, what remains when the dust has settled? Not much of interest to anyone actually living their life, Kierkegaard might answer, which should worry us. Yet, at no point does he provide a description of what this experience might be.

Though again, as I discussed, this is of course entirely the point: he does not provide us with an a priori entry into the hermeneutic circle in which this experience takes shape, precisely because it only takes shape within or as that circle. Presupposing nothing results in knowing nothing. As Kant might have said, absolute anything is simply nothing. Having an angle is the way truths open up for us mortals.

If we continue radicalising phenomenology be it with Husserl, Heidegger, Fink, Marion, or Henry , instead of practicing phenomenology, we risk losing sight of what show itself as such. Indeed, if no language derived from the world can be used to read or make meaningful the Christian message as it is found in Scripture , that message shrivels up in itself and dies, for there is no other language available.

Nor can one object that the biblical writings do not intend to be historical documents, but rather affirmations of faith and proclamation. For however certain this may be, if they are ever to be understood as such, they must first of all be interpreted historically, inasmuch as they speak in a strange language in concepts of a faraway time, of a world-picture that is alien to us. Put quite simply, they must be translated , and translation is the task of historical science. It comes down to an acceptance or recognition that Christianity has the cultural means, as well as the conceptual means, to touch the depths of our humanity.

What these analogous concepts would be, we are left to guess. Simultaneously, whilst Christianity, or at least its Scriptures, would lack the means to speak meaningfully to non-Christians because the science of Scripture is not universally credible ; it risks—and I say risks, because Wells is unclear about whether intra-Christian differentiation counts as different phenomenological homeworlds—suppressing all interpretative difference within the Christian tradition itself because the science of Scripture is absolutely to-be-believed.

There is no virtue in radicalisation when it amounts to Entmenschlichung —perhaps only within the dry vocabulary of transcendental philosophy could these words somehow appear innocent.