Phenomenology and Postmodernism

Seminar in Phenomenology

Phenomenology is a method of philosophizing which is required by the problems of philosophy: one which is very different from the manner of viewing and verifying in life, and which is even more different from the way in which one does and must work in most of the sciences.

Postmodernism is primarily a theory, some would say a practice, of human knowledge.  It could be both.  It originates and is supported from the failure, real or presumed, of the Modern. 

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Phenomenology and Postmodernism

Postmodernism is primarily a theory, some would say a practice, of human knowledge.  It could be both.  It originates and is supported from the failure, real or presumed, of the Modern.  We will characterize a certain model or picture of knowledge and action that derives from Classical philosophy but eventually became identified with the 'Modern.'  We will consider how that model breaks up on repeated waves of Representationalism from the 17th to the 20th Centuries.  Representationalism, generically, is an interpretation of the act of consciousness that closes it in on itself and prevents attainment of the objectivity and universality aspired to by the Modern.  Phenomenology, in the form developed by Edmund Husserl, will be considered at lengths as the (thus far) final attempt to re-describe the structure of knowledge in such a way as to salvage the Classical/Modern picture of knowledge from Representationalism.  


We then turn to how Phenomenology is countered in the mid-Twentieth Century by Representationalism, as the Classically rational and autonomous individual is obliterated by the social, in the form of history and language.  Some attention will be paid to Heidegger, Wittgenstein and others, but we will do a very careful study of Derrida's Speech and Phenomena, as well as some of his shorter pieces.  The seminar will conclude by reading the statements by Lyotard and Toulmin on where we seem to be now as 'Postmoderns' in philosophy, and trying to get clear on what they understand knowledge to amount to, especially in the highly professionalized and technocratic context of contemporary life.  An enduring issue will be the extent to which evidence and rationality can be adequately treated in social terms, or, alternatively, in non-social terms.

 

TEXTS:

  1. Sarup, Madan, An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism.
  2. Willard, Dallas, Logic and the Objectivity of Knowledge
  3. Husserl, Edmund, Ideas I (Gibson translation, paperback)
  4. Lyotard, Jean-Francois, Phenomenology (Beakley transl.)
  5. Derrida, Jacques, Speech and Phenomena
  6. Toulmin, Stephen, Cosmopolis
  7. Lyotard, J.-F., The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
  8. Lyotard, J.-F., The Postmodern Explained

 

Click the "Download" link for the complete 3-page syllabus.

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