Husserl’s Motivation and Method for Phenomenological Reconstruction

Continental Philosophy Review 47 (2):135-152 (2014)
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In this paper I piece present an account of Husserl’s approach to the phenomenological reconstruction of consciousness’ immemorial past, a problem, I suggest, that is quite pertinent for defenders of Lockean psychological continuity views of personal identity. To begin, I sketch the background of the problem facing the very project of a genetic phenomenology, within which the reconstructive analysis is situated. While the young Husserl took genetic matters to be irrelevant to the main task of phenomenology, he would later come to see their importance and, indeed, centrality as the precursor and subsoil for the rationality of consciousness. I then argue that there is a close connection between reconstruction and genetic phenomenology, such that reconstruction is a necessary component of the program of genetic phenomenology, and I set out an argument of Husserl’s compelling one to enter into reconstructive territory. With that impetus, I schematically lay out the main contours one finds in Husserl’s practice of reconstructive techniques. We find him taking two distinct approaches, that of the individual viewed egologically (through the abstract lens of a single individual’s consciousness) and as embedded in interpersonal relations. Husserl occasionally calls these the approach “from within” and “from without,” respectively. Ultimately, the two approaches are not only complementary, but require one another. In closing, I argue that these considerations lead to a blurring of lines between the genetic and generative phenomenological registers, which challenges the prevalent view that there is a sharp demarcation of the two.

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Matt Bower
Texas State University


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