- Jun 21, 2015
A series of six lectures was given by Professor Ondrej Svec of Charles University, Prague. The theme of the lectures was "The pragmatic turn in phenomenology". Lectures began with the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), and then focused on each of those who succeeded Husserl phenomenology from their own differing perspectives: Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), and Jan Patočka (1907-1977). An examination was conducted from the point upon which they all stand; that is, an emphasis on practice over theory.
Firstly, Husserl, with the aim of knowing the universal nature of an event, used consciousness as a means towards a conceptual understanding of the world. Husserl phenomenology emphasises subjectivity, regarding external existence as transcendence. His later thinking, moreover, called for a stand against modern science's attempts at theorisation of nature. He proposed a suspension of judgement ("epoche [bracketing]") on all objective learning, and a return to "Lebenswelt (lifeworld)" that, prior to any learning, is intuitive to everyday practice.
Critical successor to Husserl, Heidegger, in his Sein und Zeit (Being and time), advocated the supremacy of practice versus logic within a framework differing from Husserl: that of "Dasein (being-in-the-world)". In his book, by proposing "knowledge" precede "act", Heidegger was returning to the meaning of practice as defined by the Ancient Greeks, and was attempting a confrontation with modern metaphysics - which connected with the post-Descartes' modern consciousness. Professor Svec, however, expressed reservations against the commentaries of Hubert Dreyfus and others that treat this pragmata as being totally ante-predicative.
On the other hand, Merleau-Ponty also adopted the thought of Husserl, but here it was the Husserl who laid importance upon a perceptive "Lebenswelt" and physical experience, rather than the Husserl who saw the physical body and world as transcendence and excluded them from consideration. Although Heidegger's influence upon Merleau-Ponty through the term "Dasein" is clear, as the title of his most famous work, Phénoménologie de la perception (Phenomenology of perception), suggests, we can say that his interests lay not in Heideggerian phenomenological ontology, but in the life that is us that has already been cast into the real world through our physical bodies. It is worth noting how Merleau-Ponty perceived phenomenology as a movement rather than as a theory.
Lastly, the case of Jan Patočka was raised who learned from Husserl and Heidegger and took influence from them, yet was set to surpass them as leading Czech philosopher. Although Patočka was fascinated by Husserl phenomenology, he harboured doubts over the fact that the said thought - rooted in the subjectivity of consciousness and self - should distance itself from the real world, and not reflect on physical and practical actions. He also believed that Heidegger ontology, despite regarding humans as "Dasein", did not sufficiently understand the human uniqueness implied therein. The phenomenology that Patočka subsequently developed was a phenomenology of movement within a world and society upon which humans, together with their Others, have been cast.
The lectures outlined above showed how phenomenology, with the viewpoint of practice as its axis, has closed in on human reality. They did this following the passing of time and in dynamic fashion, allowing us lecture attendees a full appreciation of the history of thought.