Phenomenology as Radical Reflection

In Heather Logue & Louise Richardson (eds.), Purpose and Procedure in Philosophy of Perception. pp. 234-257 (2021)
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What does it mean to adopt a phenomenological approach when doing philosophy of perception? And what form should such an approach take? I address these questions by first distinguishing three different ways of drawing philosophical conclusions based on phenomenological reflection: 'Humean' phenomenology, which attempts to discern the structure of perceptual experience via reflection on its surface properties; 'Kantian' phenomenology, which aims to provide a priori arguments about the structure perceptual experience must have if it is to possess universally agreed upon manifest properties; and 'Husserlian' phenomenology, which aims to achieve an intuitive grasp of the essential properties of perceptual experience via attempted imaginative variation of its aspects and properties. Drawing on arguments from Merleau-Ponty, I then argue that the shortcomings of each of these approaches motivate a 'Merleau-Pontian' conception of phenomenology as 'radical reflection' - a mode of reflection on perceptual experience that simultaneously attempts to understand the origins and authority of reflection itself. The methodology for philosophy of perception that results is a thoroughly interdisciplinary one, aiming to reconcile philosophical conclusions about the necessary structures of perceptual experience with our best empirical knowledge of the bodily, psychological, cultural and historical contingencies that shape both our experiences and our reflective capacities.

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Dave Ward
University of Edinburgh


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