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A Critical Survey of Phenomenology and Existentialism

A Critical Survey of Phenomenology and Existentialism

Specifications

Item Code: IDE105

by Mrinal Kanti Bhadra

Hardcover (Edition: 2004)

Indian Council of Philosophical Research
ISBN 81-85636-77-X

Language: English
Size: 8.8" X 5.7"
Pages: 550
Weight of the Book: 748 gms
Price: $32.00   Shipping Free
Viewed times since 8th Feb, 2015

Description

From the Jacket:

The book attempts to present an exhaustive account of phenomenology and existentialism. It has dealt with the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, and eight major existentialist thinkers. Each chapter contains an expository and a critical analysis of the ideas.

The book tries to remove the difficulties often felt in grasping the ideas of these schools. Complex thought has been presented clearly as far as possible.

Towards the end a sketch of analytic phenomenology and existentialism has been developed. The boo aims to narrow the wide gap between analytic philosophy and phenomenologieo-existentialism.

About the Author:

Mrinal Kanti Bhadra (b. 1929) studied at the Universities of Calcutta and Oklahoma and obtained his Ph. D from Oklahoma. He was Vivekananda Professor of Philosophy, Burdwan University, West Bengal.

Professor Bhadra has contributed many scholarly papers to various learned journals. His works, including monographs, are: A Critical Study of Sartre's Ontology of Consciousness; An Ontology of Human Reality; Astivad: Jean-Paul Sartrer Darsan O Sahitya (in Bengali); and Bengali translation of Sartre's Novel, La Nausee.

Preface

The present book seeks to give an exposition as well as a critical evaluation of the philosophical content of phenomenology and existentialism. It seems to me that there are not enough books on the subject which provide an ex- haustive treatment of the subject. Students and readers interested in the sub- ject often remain perplexed, as the ideas are not generally expressed clearly. I have tried to remove that difficulty as far as possible.

It is sometimes thought that analytic philosophers and philosophers ow- ing their allegiance to phenomenology and existentialism move in different directions. In my critical discussions I have tried to show that all philoso- phers are concerned with the same problems. Only their approaches are not always the same. Perhaps an analytic approach to phenomenology and exis- tentialism can narrow down the gaps in philosophical understanding.

In the book I have tried to indicate how phenomenology extends into ex- istentialism. Even the so-called non-phenomenological existentialist think- ers have a distinctly descriptive approach akin to phenomenology. Towards the end I have tried to develop phenomenologico-existentialist account of human reality. It is only a rough sketch of how we can work in the area of analytic phenomenology and I have tried to organize the available materials, although I am afraid I have not been able to cover all the material. Even then if readers get a fair idea of the subject from a study of the book, my labour will be rewarded.

Introduction

1. The Background of Phenomenology
The word 'phenomenology' has come, in modem times, to be associated with the name of the great German philosopher, Edmund Husserl. Histori- cally speaking, perhaps it was Hegel who had first used the word system- atically in his monumental work The Phenomenology of Spirit. In Hegel's work, phenomenology was understood to be an ascent of consciousness from the sensuous stage to Absolute Knowledge through various forms of self-consciousness. His Phenomenology of the Spirit is a story of the de- velopment of consciousness. As 'phenomenology' etymologically means 'science of phenomena or appearances', Hegel's phenomenology is also concerned with phenomena or appearances. But Hegel understood them to be the appearances of the Absolute Mind which constitute the different stages of the universal consciousness. So Hegel's interest was mainly on- tological, but Husserl was mainly interested in the epistemological prob- lems. To him, 'phenomena' stand for 'appearances' through which a thing is presented to us, such as in perception. These appearances are fundamen- tally different from the Hegelian appearances, as Hegel does not under- stand those to be transparent through which a thing appears. Husserl un- derstands 'phenomenology', as we shall see afterwards, as the study of phenomena or appearances in a systematic way to explain the possibility of our valid knowledge in different fields such as science, mathematics, philosophy, etc. It will become clear in course of our study that he does not understand phenomenology as a metaphysical study or ontology. Rather, to him it is a philosophical method which will help us go to the foundations of sciences and other branches of knowledge so that it will be possible for us to have apodictic certainty in those areas.

2. Life and Intellectual Background
Husserl was born in Czechoslovakia in 1859 and studied in Berlin and Vienna. He took his doctor's degree in mathematics, but was also trained in physics, astronomy and philosophy. He attended the lectures of Franz Brentano and became interested in the value and dignity of philosophy. The lectures of Brentano inspired him to discover a new way of thinking, which ultimately led him to the development of phenomenology. The im- portant books through which Husserl developed his philosophical think- ing are (l)The Philosophy of Arithmetic, 1891; (2)Logical Investigations, vol.l , 1900, vol.II, 1901; (3) Ideas, vol.I, 1913, vols 11 & 1lI, published posthumously, 1952; (4) Formal and Transcendental Logic, 1929; (5) Car- tesian Meditations, 1931; and (6) The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, Parts I & 11, 1936; other parts published in Husserliana VI, 1954. We can have a systematic idea of Husserl's phe- nomenology on the basis of the ideas investigated in these books. Husserl died in 1938 and left behind him a rich store of philosophical ideas which has played an important part in the shaping of contemporary philosophi- cal thoughts.

We can grasp Husserl's philosophical thoughts better, if we begin with an analysis of the influences of the philosophical traditions which might have contributed a great deal in the formation of Husserl's phenomenol- ogical thought. If we look at the intellectual background of the early part of the nineteenth century, we find that there has been a gradual disillusion- ment with speculative metaphysics. Scientific materialism has been gain- ing ground, but there are also signs of disenchantment with this rigid doc- trine. Hegelianism was the dominant philosophical trend of the earlier century. But Husserl did not feel sympathetic to Hegel's philosophy of the Absolute Spirit. It has been pointed out by critics that the last phase of his thought bears some traces of Hegelianism. Husserl wanted to establish a scientific ideal in philosophy. To him, 'only a phenomenology can be truly scientific and only a scientific philosophy can be truly philosophy', as pointed out by Quentin Lauer. Husserl's phenomenology developed also as a reaction to the trends of 'naturalism' and 'historicism' in his times. Naturalism, he thinks, is the doctrine which recognizes only the physical as real. Such a theory cannot explain the foundation of sciences, for expe- rience of fact cannot answer important questions about experience. For that a critical study of cognition is necessary, which phenomenology can pro- vide. Historicism is a philosophical theory which wants to consider the life of spirit from a historical point of view, but concludes in a wrong way that there is nothing stable, not even objective truth. History wants to judge all positions in the historical context and depends absolutely on fact. But the attempt to prove the fact shows the possibility of a critical at- titude, which is a value position. This leads to a refutation of historicism, as there is a temptation to treat all historical positions as equally invalid. Husserl also rejects the claim of Weltanschauung as a scientific philosophy as it is a loose unity of all scientific thought at any time, as expressing the spirit of that time. Husserl does not think that such a philosophy can be a substitute for strict science, for he thinks, a scientific philosophy has to be rigorous, and it has to be attained. Husserl's idea is that only phenome- nology can give us a scientific method which wants to discover the es- sences in an intuitive grasp.

Husserl's philosophical interests developed through his preoccupa- tion with mathematics and the part played by psychology in the under- standing of numbers. His inquiry into the foundations of mathematics led him to the field of logic, through which he reached the area of epistemol- ogy and fmally, to philosophy proper. It is possible that Husserl was attracted by the Cartesian ideal of certainty and wanted to ground philoso- phy on the model of mathematical knowledge. Like Descartes, he desired to make a radical beginning in philosophy and thought of establishing philosophy as a rigorous science. The intellectual tradition built up by Descartes, David Hume, and Kant influenced Husserl greatly and we are going to take up a detailed analysis of such influences. Husserl could dis- cover some latent tendencies of phenomenological thinking in the nine- teenth century German positivism of Ernst Mach and Richard A venarius who had introduced the so-called empirico-critical method in the the- ory of knowledge. It is thought by one commentator that Husserl wanted to use the term in the initial stage in the way Ernst Mach had intended. Mach spoke of a 'general physical phenomenology' which would begin by description and proceed to its end result by the method of comparing with each other different aspects of phenomena from the several branches of physics. The aim of the method was to understand the abstract con- cepts of physical research. It wanted to eliminate the unnecessary addi- tions in physics and particularly to do away with the metaphysical. Husserl was familiar with Mach's use of the term 'phenomenology', as is evident from his review of Mach's first address in his Report Concerning German Publications on Logic.

CONTENTS

 

Chapter 1 Introduction 1
Chapter 2 Husserl's Phenomenological Method 22
Chapter 3 Husserl's Phenomenology of the Life-World 89
Chapter 4 A Discussion of the Main Issues 104
Chapter 5 The Methodological Questions of Existentialism 126
Chapter 6 The Philosophy of Kierkegaard 153
Chapter 7 The Philosophy of Nietzsche 217
Chapter 8 The Philosophy of Heidegger 278
Chapter 9 The Philosophy of Sartre 340
Chapter 10 The Philosophy of Marcel 394
Chapter 11 Karl Jaspers: Philosophy and Being 429
Chapter 12 Merleau-Ponty and Camus 474
Chapter 13 An Ontology of Human Existence 519
  Bibliography 535
  Index 543

Sample Pages



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