Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Phenomenology without Correlationism: Husserl's Hyletic Material

Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Phenomenology without Correlationism: Husserl's Hyletic Material

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper sets out to establish three aims. The first is to summarise the implications of the criticism that phenomenology is correlationist - a criticism issuing from the recently developed continental school of speculative realism. Correlationism is the argument that subject and object collapse into a human-subjectcorrelate. This criticism is troubling, because it suggests that phenomenology has little to offer the continually evolving critical and socio-cultural studies and humanities. In focus at present is phenomenological ontology, and specifically the inter/relationship between subject and object. The second aim is to demonstrate that the critique of correlationism is not new to phenomenology. Indeed, the ontological limitations implied by correlationism have been considered by Husserl (1913/2002), Heidegger (1936-38/2012), and Merleau-Ponty (1945/ 1962, 1964/1968), and most impressively so in Merleau-Ponty's lecture notes on Nature (1956-60/ 2003). Finally, I outline a phenomenological ontology that takes into consideration the criticism levelled by speculative realism. However, rather than arguing that phenomenological ontology must undergo a radical transformation in order to satisfy the recent demands of continental philosophy, I maintain that all that is required is a broadening of emphasis. This is to say that speculative realism has rightly identified that the continued emphasis on the human subject - an emphasis that was particularly important in response to the psychologism of the early 20th century - is no longer necessary. Husserl (1913/2002) has outlined a twofold task for phenomenology - hyletic and noetic phenomenology (pp. 174-178). Finally, MerleauPonty will play a pivotal role in negotiating the tension between phenomenology and speculative realism. This is because he is both the target of the criticisms familiar to speculative realism such as anthropocentrism and dualism (Barbaras, 1991/2004; Merleau-Ponty, 1964/1968) as well as an example of their solution (Harman, 2005).

Phenomenological Ontology after 19th Century Realism

Phenomenology developed at a time when it had become customary to reduce the world to its smallest parts - parts that operate by the predictable rules of mechanical physics. This was most apparent in the humanistic sciences of medical biology (e.g., Goldstein, 1934/1995) and psychology (e.g., Köhler, 1929/1947). Both of these received attention from Husserl (1913/2002, 1936/1970) and Merleau-Ponty (1942/1963, 1945/1962). Evidence gathered both inside and outside the laboratory has demonstrated repeatedly that a mechanistic ontology is insufficient for understanding the operations, behaviour and experience of humans. But this critique was never limited to the humanistic sciences. The untenability of 19th century mechanical realism has been demonstrated in physics, chemistry, biology, botany, and other fields (see Cobb & Griffin, 1977, for an impressive summary of many of these). To say that phenomenology had developed only in response to mechanical realism is to suggest that phenomenology has nothing to offer beyond its criticism of, and its proposed alternative to, the 19th century brand of realism. This is important to understand in the context of speculative realism, because its critique begins with the observation that science and philosophy are no longer compelled by 19th century realism, and thus no longer need to be defended against it. For example, Harman (2002/2006) explains that "[b]y nervously avoiding all mention of specific entities, [phenomenology] continues to lose sleep over an enemy that has not existed for seventy years" (p. 28). To be sure, phenomenological ontology has indeed emphasized its anti-realist position, but I argue that this does not necessarily typify phenomenological ontology. Indeed, speculative realism has done well to demonstrate that the issues originally faced by phenomenology, although important seven decades ago, are no longer a threat. …

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