Topics are arranged alphabetically in the INDEX.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crash Course on Phenomenology

Here is a good presentation on Phenomenology.

Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. This movement was founded by Edmund Husserl who lived as long life and influenced many thinkers. His work on intentionality and directedness was later expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany, and in the mid-20th century some significant essays expounding phenomenology were brought together in a volume edited by Hubert L. Dreyfus.

Phenomenology, in Husserl's conception, is primarily concerned with the systematic reflection on and study of the structures of consciousness and the phenomena that appear in acts of consciousness. This ontology can be clearly differentiated from the Cartesian method of analysis which sees the world as objects, sets of objects, and objects acting and reacting upon one another (extension).

Husserl's conception of the directed conscious and of intentionality as the “fundamental property of consciousness” has been are great influence on the thought of Edith SteinMartin Heidegger, Max Scheler, Nicolai Hartmann, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Martin Heidegger questioned Husserl's conception of directedness. He didn't deny that the human performs consciously directed action, but he pointed out that much of what we do in our daily lives does not involve directedness or contemplation of intentional content. When I open a door, for example, I do not stop to contemplate that I must turn the door knob. I do this without consciously directing my thought to the knob or to the action. Heidegger calls this "ready-to-hand" know-how, a level of coping with our ordinary everyday life that does not require directed consciousness.

Related reading: The Shaping of 20th Century Ethics; Ontology and the Philosophical Project; George Pattison on Martin Heidegger

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interview with George Pattison

George Pattison
George Pattison is a philosophical theologian who thinks about contemporary religion, about how God cannot be separated from the quest for the Kingdom of God and cannot be an object of detached scientific contemplation. He thinks all the time on God and Being, on Heidegger on death, on the singularity, on the need for theology to engage with technology, on the new atheism, on links between Christianity and Japanese Buddhism, on Meister Eckhart, on Kierkegaard and avoiding sloppy scholarship, on keeping contact with unbelief, on the death of God and on resisting the idea of religion as heritage and instead orientating it towards hope. Soulful…

3:AM: What made you become a philosopher?

George Pattison: I’m not sure that I ‘am’ a philosopher – but I do engage with questions that are generally recognized as philosophical questions, such as the character of human existence and what makes for a good human life. In a sense these are questions that most people ask themselves to some extent. They become philosophical when asked with a persistence and rigour that pushes past conventional or evasive answers. It’s nothing to do with acquiring a technical facility in an academic discipline.

3:AM: Tillich and Barth are theologians of the beginning and mid last century very much tuned in to the humanist world laid waste and existentialist meaninglessness. You quote Beckett’s Estragon to capture the position theology talked to: ‘there’s no lack of void.’Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Hegel too have been post boys for this position for some. Is this still a possible stance or is Cupitt right to say that the mourning is over and must stop?

GP: Perhaps this is an area where every generation starts from scratch. Although the crisis of the First World War inaugurated an especially strong period of disillusion with regard to the optimism of the previous age, the pattern has repeated itself in many ways in more recent times, e.g., the loss of faith in politics as a means of advancing human well-being. And perhaps this also has to do with basic elements in growing up. I still read a lot about teenage angst! Of course, any kind of mourning CAN become pathological and then it ‘has to stop’, but to move through life untouched by the loss of hopes, beliefs and aspirations once cherished is also questionable.

3:AM: What are the practices and claims of Derridean post-structuralist theology and why is it helpful in this post-theism context? Does Heidegger’s notion of ontotheology fit in with this?

GP: These are big questions. I’m not sure how far Derrida’s later ‘theological’ interests are really rooted in post-structuralism or whether they don’t rather reflect a kind of Kantian-Marxist trajectory—with a French twist on the centrality of liberty, equality and fraternity (cf. Politics of Friendship). Not to mention the role of Levinas and, behind Levinas, Judaism’s twinning of eschatology and the call for justice. What it does remind us is that ‘God’ is not to be separated from the quest for the Kingdom of God and is not and cannot be the object of any detached ‘scientific’ contemplation. Heidegger’s critique of onto-theology is also driving a wedge between speaking of God and the aims of science—not so as to get rid of God but rather to free God from a false objectification.

Read the full interview here.

Related reading:  George Pattison on Heidegger