David Woodruff Smith/Amie Thomasson (Ed.) Phenomenology and
Philosophy of Mind. Oxford (Clarendon Press), 2005, 322 pp.
Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind collects essays that
take up the recent trend of reconsidering and reacquiring the phenomenological
movement for the philosophy of mind and the cognitive sciences.
The book is divided into five parts. The first part ‘The Place
of Phenomenology in Philosophy of Mind’ contains essays by Paul Livingston on
logical analysis, Galen Strawson on intentionality and Taylor Carmon on the ‘inescapability
of phenomenology’. The second part ‘Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge’ has
essays by David Woodruff Smith and Amie Thompson on reflexive content and
first-person knowledge, as well as an essay by John Bickle and Ralph Ellis on
phenomenology and neurophysiology. In the third part ‘Intentionality’
Johannes Brandl deals with the ‘immanence theory of intentionality’ and
Richard Tieszen on abstract entities. The fourth part ‘Unities of
Consciousness’ contains essays by Wayne Martin on ‘the logic of
consciousness’, Sean Kelly on temporal awareness and Kay Mathiesen on
collective consciousness. In the fifth part ‘Perception, Sensation, and Action’
Clotilde Calabi deals with perceptual salience, Charles Siewert with
sensorimotor intentionality and José Bermúdez with bodily awareness.
Although the title refers to phenomenology in its entirety the
articles focus mainly on Edmund Husserl as the founder and leading figure of
phenomenology. One paper deals with Brentano, as a fore-runner of phenomenology.
Four papers have a second focus on Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Alfred Schütz is
mentioned (as ‘Schutz’) in passing. Sartre plays no role at all.
Relating a traditional (philosophical) approach to current state
of the art theories may take at least the following six forms. The list from top
to down shows a decreasing commitment to a literal reading, but an increasing
argumentative strength. The essays in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind
are mostly placed on the lower half of the list.
- One may argue for a return to the traditional theory. Although
literal in its understanding of, in this case, phenomenology, the problem of
this approach is that it cannot explain, why the theory went out of favour
in the first place. Historical accidents (like missing translations etc.) to
the side leaving theories behind usually has reasons which are still in
force. In the worst case this approach may lead to rationally insufficient
motivated swings of the pendulum or fashions with respect to theories.
Fortunately no-one in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind takes this
- One may re-introduce a theory by removing some of the theses which caused
its major problems, i.e. opt for revision. In this vain Woodruff
Smith and Thomason ‘take Husserl to be a realist, not an idealist’ (10).
This is a major revision, since for Husserl after 1905 (i.e. the Husserl of
‘pure phenomenology’ mostly referred to in the book) idealism is not an
add-on, but the crucial ingredient for his transcendental theory of
constitution and ‘genetic phenomenology’.
- A version of revision which does not announce itself as revisionary is denial,
the strategy to re-interpret some major thesis as claiming something else.
So Livingston claims that Husserl’s eidetic reduction (of
experiencing essences) is a version of conceptual analysis as practised in
the analytic tradition. This misses the central point that Husserl’s
method is crucially exercised by a sole subjects relying on (immediate) ‘evidence’
whereas linguistic analysis secures the objectivity of its findings by
relying on intersubjective meanings of a public language. A difference that
resulted in the ascent of analytic philosophy and the demise of eidetic
- A neutral, but not very exciting position can claim that the traditional
theory is compatible with recent findings or state of the art
theories. This justifies why one may still cling to the traditional theory,
but gives no reason why one should do so. Positively it shows that there is
a continuous thread of theoretical developments. It integrates the
traditional theory into the present picture. Bickle and Ellis argue, in the
first part of their paper, that contrary to first impressions Husserl’s
phenomenology is compatible with recent neurophysiological data on inducing
phenomenal states by microstimulation of the brain. Brandl proposes that on
a proper reading Brentano’s theory of immanent objects may be a theory of
- The mostly applied strategy when returning to traditional theories is partial
usage. Partial usage takes up theses that contain at least some content
that goes beyond current state of the art theories. The aim of
turning to the traditional theory is to identify blind spots of current
theories or supplement them, or solve some of their problems by resources
already present in the traditional theory. Many of the papers in Phenomenology
and Philosophy of Mind are examples of partial usage. Thomasson sees
Husserl’s ‘phenomenological reduction’ as a method that not only
distinguishes itself from inner-observation accounts, but may contribute to
a current theory of the structures of self-knowledge. Kelly criticizes
current theories of the Specious Present with Husserl’s theory of time
consciousness. Mathiesen works towards a theory of collective consciousness
as collective simulation, taking its clues from Husserl and Schütz. Siewert
and Bermúdez use Merleau-Ponty’s theory of embodiment and
non-representational knowledge of one’s body for more comprehensive
theories of visual attention and action.
- The least literal, but in a way argumentative strongest, since less
historically compromised, position is congenial development, i.e.
working in way very similar to the traditional theory without adopting some
of its specific methods or theses. Given some broad general idea of
phenomenology a proponent of this strategy argues systematically for its
tenets. Somewhat in this fashion Strawson argues for the thesis that only
conscious states can be intentional states. Woodruff Smith presents an
overview of his phenomenological theory of reflexive content (relating a
perception not only to its content but simultaneously to the perceiving
Phenomenology contains resources and ideas that can support and
promote progress in the (analytic) philosophy of mind. Although biased towards
Husserl (in some ways of reading him) Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind
shows how to use phenomenology in a fruitful way.
Manuel Bremer, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany