Husserl in (Indubitable) Response to Descartes and Kant


[Descartes' model of perception; Image from the University of Bern Magazine]

[Based on the lectures of Greg Schufreider]

At the dawn of modernity (which launches it), Descartes asks, “What can I know for certain?” Doubting everything, he concludes, “Cogito, sum”: “I think, I am.” I don’t care how much I’m deceived; I must exist before I am deceived. There is no therefore: intuition (of a clear and distinct idea) is instant and immediate; no inference is needed—and that is precisely what distinguishes my certainty of myself from my certainty of other things. From the very moment that I think: I exist. That I know (and not just believe) for certain. Of myself, I have indubitable knowledge.

There are things around me that, unlike myself, I cannot change, things I have no control of. The external world, then, must exist, independent of consciousness. They exist indubitably, however, I can only be fully certain of them—in fact of anything, except myself—as long as I do not assume external correspondence, i.e. as long as I do not think that they correspond to anything outside my mind. I can be fully certain of my knowledge of things, but only as I am thinking them. I can be certain of all thoughts that I have, as long as I assume that they’re just that: thoughts. Yes, external things must exist, but the only way I can be indubitable about my knowledge of them is if I think of them only as things I am thinking of: as thoughts. Just by inspecting an idea, I can prove that it exists—but only as that, an idea, not (even though it exists) as a thing.

But they’re not just ideas, argues Husserl. Those things, after all, do appear to consciousness. Thus, we can be certain of those things (and not just of ideas of those things). We can be certain of those things, we can have indubitable knowledge of them—but if we analyze them only as they appear in consciousness, i.e. as phenomena. Unlike Kant, who had earlier defined phenomena as the appearance of something that does not appear (the noumena) (thus understanding is no longer a posteriori, but refers to the a priori categories of the mind; a priori because we never get to the noumena, but not straightforward rationalism/un-empiricism either because it is still the noumena that causes the phenomena to appear), Husserl’s phenomena is actually the appearance of something that appears. In Kant, we never get to the noumena (Kant missed time, the pregnant present affected by both the retention of what is past and the anticipation of what is future (such as in the formation of a unified perception as you take one-sided perspectives of an object and then combine them into a consistent whole); thus Kant thought of a priori structures as structures of the mind, when he should have seen them as structures of the experience itself, perceived through time.). In Husserl, the thing’s right there—but we’re sure of it only as it appears to us, i.e. as a phenomenon.

Thus we can be certain of things, but only as they appear to consciousness. We can make claims about them, but not about their independent existence, not about our metaphysical conceptions about them. We bracket off all those considerations and focus solely on how the experience appears to consciousness. We employ, in other words, the phenomenological reduction. We thus don’t think of thought as a mental event, as though there are external things out there causing thoughts in the mind. We do this not because what we get from our (empirical) perception of external things is false, but because it is dubitable. Instead, we think of the Cogito, consciousness, and the cogitata, the object of consciousness, which, the intending consciousness, in its intending, always has, and which, in its self-givenness, is intuited, given to the intending consciousness as an experience, as a phenomenon that is presented to consciousness. We are thus no longer merely indubitable about ideas: we have certain knowledge of things—but as phenomena, as they appear to consciousness. From what we can be fully certain, from foundations that are indubitable, we are then able to erect our notion of truth.

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6 thoughts on “Husserl in (Indubitable) Response to Descartes and Kant

  1. Pingback: Husserl’s Phenomenological Reductions « massthink

  2. “Husserl’s phenomena is actually the appearance of something that appears. In Kant, we never get to the noumena (Kant missed time, the pregnant present affected by both the retention of what is past and the anticipation of what is future (such as in the formation of a unified perception as you take one-sided perspectives of an object and then combine them into a consistent whole); thus Kant thought of a priori structures as structures of the mind, when he should have seen them as structures of the experience itself, perceived through time.). In Husserl, the thing’s right there—but we’re sure of it only as it appears to us, i.e. as a phenomenon.”

    What do/did you mean by ‘Kant missing time’? It is in any case for him the form in which the sensibility is affected.

    Julius

    • I think the point that Husserl was trying to make is that Kant considered the relationship between the noumena and the phenomena as fixed; hence there’s no access to the noumena. What Husserl is saying is that, if you take time into account, well you see that there is a dynamic relationship between the noumena and the phenomena, such as even if we can’t be sure what the noumena is, thanks to time, we have a sense (or changing senses) of how it appears–as phenomena.

  3. Pingback: What is Philosophy, Benjamin? « (mass)think!

    • Integral perception

      1. The surround world is a colossal informational excess for us at the same time is very limited to take into his brain an information. To solve this contrariness it needs to increase the analyzer’s capacity. Eyesight, hearing and so on. One of solution is to make working the integrated functions of our organism in a new aspect.
      The integral phenomenon are meant as the phenomenon which is perceived simultaneously ( with subjectivity ) by an individual the different sense information but it’s too logical linked, for example, the integral image where a concrete object is perceived by an observer it should be from all sides simultaneously.
      2. To perceive visual integral phenomenon it must new ways of information’s codification which are adapted to introduce into brain. For example, one of ways of information’s codification when a statuette is exposed for an observer from all sides, that is a series video-pairs’ showing filmed, let’ suppose, from 12 points around it ( statuette ) by impulse in the period cycle of a single image’s identification of 0,15 sec..
      There is an obligatory condition of such showing, it’s effacing ( shady side, tone ) stereo frame ( by supposition white or another ) to avoid a merging stereo-pairs’ images each other but to achieve its logical confluence. Moreover it must be the following order of stereo-pairs’ showing : 1,2,3…., than 1,2,3 and so on. Known that the human retina ignores the dead time consequently we may increase the visual perception’s capacity.
      3. The same are the other receptors, in particular, the hearing. With binary ( of two ears ) effect it may identify the direction and the locality of sound’s source because of the phases’ difference of sound waves which come into each ear. In audio integral perception the effect will be following : if a person is offered a song, let’s suppose “Luxembourg garden” by Joe Dassin, he will hear it the whole simultaneously ( with subjectivity ) for all its periods of identification in its logical sounding that’s a temporal component is greatly exchanged for a spatial one ( integral binary effect ). From this it follows that a man can see by his hearing a coded image, telling figuratively.
      4. It proceeds from above-offered ideas that there is a possibility and a necessity creation of people’s integral world. They need a system device named “artificial eye”. It’s portable made and is worn in the helmet on the head with a display in front of his eyes. With its help a person sees a spherical review of visible world from his point. The people wearing on such helmets with an artificial eyes may create an over-system as so the information ( they are linked with a field ) is transmitted from one to another ( this is integral network ) and is spread at velocity of light in electromagnetic form and comes to everyone practically instantaneously, in the helmets the information is coded on integral base. Each people connected to such network turns visually in few places of space simultaneously receiving the world completely. Perfectly he would to be on the whole surface of the Globe and in the Space. To receive and to transmit information in the network one must use also the stationary system devices of artificial eyes.
      5. The display is also sensible of human eye’s moving, this would form external integral conventional thinking. Here we are approaching a common thought and creativity at this level in integral network.
      6. It’s really activating the third human signal system with a new languages. If we compare, let’s suppose, a Russian alphabet, each its letter ( phoneme ) with its note, moreover it must determine the different frequency and timbre intervals and than we will sound the verbal stimulus-words ( sentences ) that we having exchanged the linguistic structure ( form ) we exchange through a sign and also a thinking itself, and as consequence, a new vision of the world. Also such perception is possible with other analyzers, moreover it is picked out visual and especially touching ones, with this they may produce simultaneously the great quantity ( mass ) of integral text information ( human cutaneous sensor’s surface ). It’s possible creation of inter-analyzer language.
      7. The perspectives of integral perception development are in the studying and using modulated electromagnetic fields.
      8. As a result, what do we strive for ? This is that a man would acquire the extra-sensor and extra-intellectual capacities. The society would acquire a new level of reality named “Collective Intelligence”.

      Makukhin Sergey.

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