Phenomenology, Abduction, and Argument: Avoiding an Ostrich Epistemology

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (3):1-18 (2022)
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Abstract

Phenomenology has been described as a “non-argumentocentric” way of doing philosophy, reflecting that the philosophical focus is on generating adequate descriptions of experience. But it should not be described as an argument-free zone, regardless of whether this is intended as a descriptive claim about the work of the “usual suspects” or a normative claim about how phenomenology ought to be properly practiced. If phenomenology is always at least partly in the business of arguments, then it is worth giving further attention to the role and form of phenomenological argumentation, how it interacts with its more strictly descriptive component, and the status of phenomenological claims regarding conditions for various kinds of experience. I contend that different versions of phenomenological reasoning encroach upon argument forms that are commonly thought to be antithetical to phenomenology, notably abductive reasoning, understood in terms of its role in both hypothesis generation and in terms of justification. This paper identifies two main steps to making this case. The first step takes seriously the consequences of the intrinsically dialectical aspect of phenomenology in intersection with other modes of philosophy, the natural attitude, and non-philosophy. The second step focuses on transcendental reflection and arguments about the conditions/structures they contain. Together, these two steps aim to rescue phenomenology from the objection that it has an “ostrich epistemology” with regard to the ostensible purity of description, the intuition of essences, or the “conditions” ascertained through transcendental reflection.

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Jack Alan Reynolds
Deakin University

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