To contest widespread assumptions in the philosophy of photography regarding the nature of photography, particularly as an artistic medium, in part by showing that it is predicated on a narrow diet of examples that distorts philosophers' understanding of the field, and in part by developing an alternative conception of photographic agency.
The former draws on resources in art history, the latter on the philosophy of action. There is a book project associated with each of these goals. The former, 'Art after Aesthetics? A Critique of Theories of Art after Modernism,' is in progress. Both involve substantive engagement with recent art and photography.
I am also at the early stages of a collection of essays on the work of individual contemporary artists in relation various concepts attributing values and disvalue, provisionally titled Values in Contemporary Art and Photography. Projected chapters include: Martin Creed aspiring to stupidity , Jeremy Deller the idea of political engagement , Lee Friedlander shame and its transcendence , Sol LeWitt proof and redundancy , Richard Long treading lightly on the earth , Adrian Piper humour and hubris , Simon Starling transfiguration , Jeff Wall attentiveness , Lawrence Weiner materiality and James Welling trust in the world , among others.
From I was a member of the British Society of Aesthetics executive committee, from as Chair of the Society. I am happy to consider PhD applications from candidates wishing to work in related areas of research. Portraits and Philosophy , London: Routledge, Martin Creed and Philosophy , London: Bloomsbury, Aesthetics: Art, Beauty and the Sublime.
It contains Husserl's celebrated attack on psychologism, the view that logic can be reduced to psychology; an account of phenomenology as the descriptive study of the structural features of the varieties of experience; and a number of concrete phenomenological analyses, including those of meaning, part-whole relations and intentionality. Logical Investigations seemed to pursue its agenda against a backdrop of metaphysical realism.
In Ideas I Husserl , however, Husserl presented phenomenology as a form of transcendental idealism.
This apparent move was greeted with hostility from some early admirers of Logical Investigations , such as Adolph Reinach. However, Husserl later claimed that he had always intended to be a transcendental idealist. In Ideas I Husserl offered a more nuanced account of the intentionality of consciousness, of the distinction between fact and essence and of the phenomenological as opposed to the natural attitude. Heidegger was an assistant to Husserl who took phenomenology in a rather new direction. Relations between Husserl and Heidegger became strained, partly due to the divisive issue of National Socialism, but also due to significant philosophical differences.
Thus, unlike his early works, Heidegger's later philosophy bears little relation to classical Husserlian phenomenology. Although he published relatively little in his lifetime, Husserl was a prolific writer leaving a large number of manuscripts. Alongside Heidegger's interpretation of phenomenology, this unpublished work had a decisive influence on the development of French existentialist phenomenology. Taking its lead from Heidegger's account of authentic existence, Sartre's Being and Nothingness Sartre developed a phenomenological account of consciousness , freedom and concrete human relations that perhaps defines the term "existentialism.
Although none of the philosophers mentioned above can be thought of straightforwardly as classical Husserlian phenomenologists, in each case Husserl sets the phenomenological agenda. This remains the case, with a great deal of the contemporary interest in both phenomenological methodology and phenomenological topics drawing inspiration from Husserl's work. Accordingly, Husserl's views are the touchstone in the following discussion of the topics, methods and significance of phenomenology.
Husserlian phenomenology is a discipline to be undertaken according to a strict method. This method incorporates both the phenomenological and eidetic reductions. Phenomenology is, as the word suggests, the science of phenomena. But this just raises the questions: "What are phenomena? In answering the first question, it is useful to briefly turn to Kant.
On one reading of Kant, appearances are in the mind, mental states of subjects.
On another reading, appearances are things as they appear, worldly objects considered in a certain way. Both of these understandings of the nature of phenomena can be found in the phenomenological literature. However, the most common view is that all of the major phenomenologists construe phenomena in the latter way: phenomena are things as they appear. They are not mental states but worldly things considered in a certain way. The Phenomenologists tend, however, to reject Kantian noumena. Also, importantly, it is not to be assumed that the relevant notion of appearing is limited to sensory experience.
Experience or intuition can indeed be sensory but can, at least by Husserl's lights, be understood to encompass a much broader range of phenomena Husserl , sec. Thus, for example, although not objects of sensory experience, phenomenology can offer an account of how the number series is given to intuition. Phenomenology, then, is the study of things as they appear phenomena. It is also often said to be descriptive rather than explanatory: a central task of phenomenology is to provide a clear, undistorted description of the ways things appear Husserl , sec.
This can be distinguished from the project of giving, for example, causal or evolutionary explanations , which would be the job of the natural sciences. In ordinary waking experience we take it for granted that the world around us exists independently of both us and our consciousness of it.
This might be put by saying that we share an implicit belief in the independent existence of the world, and that this belief permeates and informs our everyday experience. Husserl refers to this positing of the world and entities within it as things which transcend our experience of them as "the natural attitude" Husserl , sec. In The Idea of Phenomenology , Husserl introduces what he there refers to as "the epistemological reduction," according to which we are asked to supply this positing of a transcendent world with "an index of indifference" Husserl , This means that all judgements that posit the independent existence of the world or worldly entities, and all judgements that presuppose such judgements, are to be bracketed and no use is to be made of them in the course of engaging in phenomenological analysis.
Importantly, Husserl claims that all of the empirical sciences posit the independent existence of the world, and so the claims of the sciences must be "put out of play" with no use being made of them by the phenomenologist. The reduction, then, is that which reveals to us the primary subject matter of phenomenology—the world as given and the givenness of the world; both objects and acts of consciousness. There are a number of motivations for the view that phenomenology must operate within the confines of the phenomenological reduction.
One is epistemological modesty. The subject matter of phenomenology is not held hostage to skepticism about the reality of the "external" world. Another is that the reduction allows the phenomenologist to offer a phenomenological analysis of the natural attitude itself.
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This is especially important if, as Husserl claims, the natural attitude is one of the presuppositions of scientific enquiry. Finally, there is the question of the purity of phenomenological description. It is possible that the implicit belief in the independent existence of the world will affect what we are likely to accept as an accurate description of the ways in which worldly things are given in experience.
We may find ourselves describing things as "we know they must be" rather than how they are actually given. The reduction, in part, enables the phenomenologist to go "back to the 'things themselves'" Husserl , , meaning back to the ways that things are actually given in experience.
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Indeed, it is precisely here, in the realm of phenomena, that Husserl believes we will find that indubitable evidence that will ultimately serve as the foundation for every scientific discipline. As such, it is vital that we are able to look beyond the prejudices of common sense realism, and accept things as actually given.
It is in this context that Husserl presents his Principle of All Principles which states that, "every originary presentive intuition is a legitimizing source of cognition, that everything originally so to speak, in its 'personal' actuality offered to us in 'intuition' is to be accepted simply as what it is presented as being, but also only within the limits in which it is presented there" Husserl , sec. The results of phenomenology are not intended to be a collection of particular facts about consciousness, but are rather supposed to be facts about the essential natures of phenomena and their modes of givenness.
Phenomenologists do not merely aspire to offer accounts of what their own experiences of, say, material objects are like, but rather accounts of the essential features of material object perception as such. But how is this aspiration to be realized given that the method of phenomenology is descriptive, consisting in the careful description of experience?
Doesn't this, necessarily, limit phenomenological results to facts about particular individuals' experience, excluding the possibility of phenomenologically grounded general facts about experience as such? The Husserlian answer to this difficulty is that the phenomenologist must perform a second reduction called "eidetic" reduction because it involves a kind of vivid, imagistic intuition. The purpose of the eidetic reduction in Husserl's writings is to bracket any considerations concerning the contingent and accidental, and concentrate on intuit the essential natures or essences of the objects and acts of consciousness Husserl , sec.
This intuition of essences proceeds via what Husserl calls "free variation in imagination. We will eventually come up against something that cannot be varied without destroying that object as an instance of its kind. The implicit claim here is that if it is inconceivable that an object of kind K might lack feature F, then F is a part of the essence of K. Eidetic intuition is, in short, an a priori method of gaining knowledge of necessities.
However, the result of the eidetic reduction is not just that we come to knowledge of essences, but that we come to intuitive knowledge of essences. Essences show themselves to us Wesensschau , although not to sensory intuition, but to categorial or eidetic intuition Husserl , It might be argued that Husserl's methods here are not so different from the standard methods of conceptual analysis: imaginative thought experiments Zahavi , It is widely accepted that few of the most significant post-Husserlian phenomenologists accepted Husserl's prescribed methodology in full.
Although there are numerous important differences between the later phenomenologists, the influence of Heidegger runs deep. On the nature of phenomena, Heidegger remarks that "the term 'phenomenon'…signifies 'to show itself'" Heidegger , sec. Phenomena are things that show themselves and the phenomenologist describes them as they show themselves. So, at least on this score there would appear to be some affinity between Husserl and Heidegger.
However, this is somewhat controversial, with some interpreters understanding Husserlian phenomena not as things as given , but as states of the experiencing subject Carman What Heidegger says in his early work, however, is that, for him, the phenomenological reduction has a different sense than it does for Husserl:.
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For Husserl , phenomenological reduction… is the method of leading phenomenological vision from the natural attitude of the human being whose life is involved in the world of things and persons back to the transcendental life of consciousness…. For us phenomenological reduction means leading phenomenological vision back from the apprehension of a being…to the understanding of the being of this being. Heidegger , Certainly, Heidegger thinks of the reduction as revealing something different—the Being of beings.
But this is not yet to say that his philosophy does not engage in bracketing,for we can distinguish between the reduction itself and its claimed consequences.
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