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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2007

4 - Time and phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger


One common view of the history of twentieth-century Continental philosophy is as follows. At the beginning of the century, Edmund Husserl, disturbed by what he saw as the increasing relativism and historicism of Western culture, introduced the phenomenological method as a way to ensure that philosophy would arrive at final, incontrovertible truths. Phenomenology means primarily description - description of the things presented in our experience and description of our experience of them. The phenomenological movement was heralded by Husserl's cry, “Back to the things themselves!” Because phenomenology “brackets,” or suspends belief in, all metaphysical constructs in order to focus solely on what shows up as it presents itself in our experience, its findings are supposed to be apodictic, beyond all possible doubt.

According to the standard story, the early Heidegger came along and raised questions about the viability of Husserlian phenomenology by taking an “interpretive” turn. What is most important about Heidegger's hermeneutic ontology, so the story goes, is his recognition of the significance of the finitude, worldliness, and historicity of our human predicament - the recognition that our access to things is always colored and preshaped by the sense of things circulating in our historical culture.

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