Phenomenology, Discourse and their Objects

Graham Harman recently responded (here) to my musings on his argument for his fourfold structure (here). That post was quite brief, but it suggested that the way to reject his approach is to reject the phenomenological standpoint that its based upon, loosely summed up in the idea that ontology must begin with experience. Given that Graham has picked up on the points I made, I feel that I should probably go into a bit more detail, although this will unfortunately fall short of presenting my alternative to phenomenology (fundamental deontology) in full. First though, I think it’s important to say a little bit more about what the core features of phenomenology are, before we try to provide possible reasons for rejecting them. I am of course no expert on Husserl, so my analysis will be faily crude, but hopefully fair nonetheless.

1. The Basic Problems with Phenomenology

Skipping over the methodological details of phenomenology (which are certainly most interesting), I think the two most important features to pick out are the theory of intentionality, and the correlative theory of meaning or content. The first encapsulates the real advance of phenomenology (via Brentano) over both the empiricist and Kantian accounts of experience. The advance over empiricism is threefold. First, phenomenology surpasses the empiricists’ indirect realism, holding that we do not experience ideas or representations of things, but that our experiences are directed at the things themselves. Secondly, experience is the encountering of objects as objects, not the encountering of bundles of sense data that must be actively united into objects. Thirdly, phenomenology takes the objects that our experiences are directed at to transcend our experiences of them. As Graham is fond of pointing out, this has the effect of opening up a distinction between the objects of experience and the qualities that they present to us.

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On Throwing Stones

For those of you unaware, there’s been another slight fracas recently over Graham Harman’s reference to a certain wing of contemporary continental philosophy as the “neurology death cult” (here).  Reid over at Planomenology took a certain amount of umbrage at this remark (here), and used it as an excuse to try and correct what he sees as a bunch of misunderstandings of Ray Brassier that have come out of Levi and Graham’s corner (to differing extents). Graham then indirectly responded to this (here), and Levi posted some comments in response to it, but has since deleted them (so I won’t address them directly). It seems to me that there a few important things to be said in relation to the points raised here, so I’ll try and do so without stepping on any toes (which is a difficult matter these days).

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