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Is There a Metaphysics of Consciousness Without a Phenomenology of Consciousness? Some Thoughts Derived from Husserl's Philosophical Phenomenology

  • Eduard Marbach (a1)


The paper first addresses Husserl's conception of philosophical phenomenology, metaphysics, and the relation between them, in order to explain why, on Husserl's view, there is no metaphysics of consciousness without a phenomenology of consciousness. In doing so, it recalls some of the methodological tenets of Husserl's phenomenology, pointing out that phenomenology is an eidetic or a priori science which has first of all to do with mere ideal possibilities of consciousness and its correlates; metaphysics of consciousness, on the other hand, has to do with its reality or actuality, requiring an eidetic foundation in order to become scientifically valuable. Presuming that, if consciousness is to be the subject-matter of a metaphysics which is not simply speculative or based on prejudice, it is crucial to get the phenomenology of consciousness right, the paper then engages in a detailed descriptive-eidetic analysis of mental acts of re-presenting something and tries to argue that their structures, involving components of non-actual experiencing, pose a serious problem for a materialistic or physicalistic metaphysics of consciousness. The paper ends with a brief comment on Husserl's broader view of metaphysics, having to do with the irrationality of the transcendental fact, i.e. the constitution of the factual world and the factual life of the mind.



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1 In this context, I am also reminded of Seager's, WilliamMetaphysics of Consciousness (London and New York: Routledge, 1991).

2 In Husserlian phenomenology, the term ‘experience’, ‘Erlebnis’ or ‘Bewusstseinserlebnis’, covers sensory as well as cognitive, emotional, affective experiences.

3 See, e.g. Husserl, E., Phenomenology and the Foundations of the Sciences, translated by Klein, T. E. Jr. and Phol, W. E. (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1980), §8, 41. See also Husserl, E., Erfahrung und Urteil. Untersuchungen zur Genealogie der Logik, edited by Landgrebe, Ludwig (Hamburg: Meiner, 1985), §96.

4 Husserl, E., Thing and Space. Lectures of 1907, translated by Rojcewicz, Richard (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1997), §40, 119.

5 Compare draft of a letter to Karl Joël, 11. III. 1914 in Husserl, E., Briefwechsel, Band VI. Philosophenbriefe. In Verbindung mit Elisabeth Schuhmann, herausgegeben von Karl Schuhmann (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), 205f.

6 Compare Husserl, E., The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, translated by Carr, David (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970). §52, 178; translation slightly amended.

7 See, e.g. Husserl, E., Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Erstes Buch. Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie, edited by Schuhmann, Karl, Husserliana III/1 (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976), 178; compare also Einleitung in die Logik und Erkenntnistheorie. Vorlesungen 1906/07, edited by Melle, U., Husserliana XXIV (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984), §40, 236ff.

8 See E. Husserl, Erste Philosophie (1923/24). Kritische Ideengeschichte, edited by Boehm, Rudolf, Husserliana VII (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1956), 187f., note 1.

9 See Husserl, E., Phänomenologische Psychologie. Vorlesungen Sommersemester 1925, edited by Biemel, Walter, Husserliana IX (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962), 35ff.

10 See, e.g. ibid., 37: ‘… dass es zum Wesen des Bewusstseinslebens gehört, anstelle des räumlichen Aussereinander, Ineinander und Durcheinander und räumlicher Ganzheit ein intentionales … ineinander meinend Beschlossensein in sich zu bergen…’.

12 Cf. e.g. Chalmers, D., The Conscious Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

13 Crane, T., Elements of Mind. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 89.

14 See, e.g. Wollheim, R., The Mind and Its Depths (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), 188 and Peacocke, C., ‘Depiction’, The Philosophical Review 96:3 (1987), 383410, discussing earlier proposals by Wollheim.

15 See E. Husserl, Erste Philosophie, op. cit., Chapter 3: ‘Rationalismus und Metaphysik der Neuzeit’, 188n.

16 Husserl, E., Zur Phänomenologie der Intersubjektivität, Dritter Teil 1929–1935, edited by Kern, Iso, Husserliana XV (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973), Nr. 22, 385f.

17 E. Husserl, The Crisis, op. cit., see note 6 above.

18 I would like to thank Pauline Phemister for carefully editing and linguistically improving my text; my thanks also go to Pierfrancesco Basile for his help, and to all the organizers for extending the invitation to participate in the Conference in Honour of the late Timothy Sprigge.

Eduard Marbach was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bern, Switzerland. His publications include Das Problem des Ich in der Phänomenologie Husserls (1974), Mental Representation and Consciousness: Towards a Phenomenological Theory of Representation and Reference (1993), and An Introduction to Husserlian Phenomenology (1993, co-authored with Rudolf Bernet and Iso Kern). He has edited Husserl’s Phantasie, Bildbewusstsein, Erinnerung. Zur Phänomenologie der anschaulichen Vergegenwärtigungen (1980, Husserliana, Vol. 23) and is the author of several papers on phenomenology and the philosophy of mind.


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