The Phenomenological Mind (book review) Shaun Gallagher, Dan Zahavi

140619 much later addition (five years): just revisiting philosophy texts i have given five to over the years, or rather the reviews than the books, to see if i recognize and find coherent arguments for such value. after reading some survey, some history, some introductory thematic philosophy texts, it is this, ‘phenomenonology’ that i pursue with most enthusiasm. as mentioned in this original review, i have already read many texts when i turn to this, more for confirmation of my understanding than as ‘intro’ to this ‘style’ of thought... and now, even educated/exposed to arguments of possibly fatal errors in husserl’s phenomenological project (is it ever possible to be truly ‘presuppositionless’?)... i am glad i started here, i am glad i found style of thought i could follow that is not math...


141217 much later addition (over three years): this is a much later later later later addition: reading (about) Kant at the moment, the 'bundles of sensation' skepticism of Hume, the idea that causality as theme can only be proved as category by assuming causality- that in ordering the world as 'a priori' it must be 'a priori'- i understand the phenomenological stance in response here, the recognition that 'consciousness' is not as 'what', a 'substance' but an 'act' that does not need to 'posit' itself, it is in the act a 'style', and this is what phenomenology is all about! also, reading plato, i feel a great urge to clarify my 'hedonism' as motive for reading philosophy: i just maybe am fortunate i enjoy this sort of reading, i do have conviction, i am certain, that this is a useful pursuit not simply for me but also for others in my life, so the pleasure is increased...


this is a later later later later addition: now that i am reading deleuze, now as i become aware, become fascinated, by further philosophers rather than canonical phenomenologists, it is time to revisit this review if not this book, this style of thought. there is something liberating in finding another strand of alternate continental thought: deleuze, foucault, trying to read bergson as the central historical voice rather than heidegger- though this is not entirely possible- but this does not invalidate threads pursued from this book. simply, i am pleased to discover yet more engaging, more current, more interesting philosophy, rather than trying vainly to become interested in analytic thought...


this is a later later later addition: according to heidegger in his introduction to 'being and time', what is offered as concern for the style, method, thought, of phenomenology, is not simply the 'objects of thought', as is mistakenly quoted from stanford internet philosophy site, not 'the things themselves', as a subject, as a 'what', but the being of being as a 'how' described, as 'how' thought 'operates' to access 'what is given', that is 'shows itself in the manner in which it shows itself'. emphatically, this is not as 'appearance', which shows itself by implication, veiled, is not itself showing, not an absence indicating something 'behind' it, not 'mere', not 'appearing', not 'doxa' (opinion), not 'a priori', but 'eidetic' (remaining after stripping perspectives etc) 'essence' as impact of the world to senses or thought. i believe this is consistent with husserl's original formulation, however heidegger uses this way of thought to his own project on 'the question of being'...

this is a later later addition: there is a schism through differing styles of philosophy, a division i would not emphasize- but while i have found this work very useful, i have not found a equivalent text for the 'analytic' kind of philosophy. i have tried other authors, i have read certain comparisons, and i am now discovering more of 'continental' that incorporates, extends, complicates, what was thought for me a resolved, final, sort of thought. i still like to think in this style. as far as (parenthesis) of authors below, as extensions of phenomenology, actually each philosopher overlaps, incorporates more, in a 'system-building' kind of way (m-p is maybe not a system-builder in his own mind) that i perhaps focus on that aspect first noted. please do not read this review as last word, i hope it is useful in spurring further thought...


this is a later addition: a friend does not, after reading this review, know what the term 'phenomenology' means, so here is brief description. 'phenomenology' is a style of philosophy, a major aspect/style of what is known as 'continental philosophy', and the term may be broken down as the study of what appears/is given (phenomena) as a science/logic (logos). this is not simply 'phenomenalism', which is the way the term is often misused, the given, the sensed, however so experienced- but in Husserl's original conception, phenomenology is kind of a mathematical process applied to the world we experience. as in math, it 'brackets' or 'puts out of play' the 'natural attitude'- the idea what we perceive is what there is, the subject/object distinction- which is prevalent not only in everyday life but also in all (natural) sciences, whereas what we want to do is suspend- not doubt, not skeptically deny- all presuppositions, as far as we can, and attend to the phenomena, the 'things themselves', and not make any of the assumptions of either 'intellectualism' of say Kant (judgement, categories, things we cannot know as in-themselves), or 'empiricism' of say Hume (what is is only what we sense, conceived causally) phenomenology is originally thought of as a science, a first science, but here it is important to see that this is not by making science into philosophy (logical positivists etc.) but philosophy into a science, though later phenomenologists extend this to ontology (Heidegger, Sartre), ethics (de Beauvoir) and art (Merleau-Ponty). as science it has a subject matter as biology has life, as chemistry has elemental interactions, as physics has logic of movement, and this subject is phenomena, the 'things themselves'. rather than exploring 'naively' 'what is' the project is to understand 'how is', rather than an indefinite chain of causality of perceptions to representations that these sciences explore, there is the how of what is sensed, the how of our world- subjective, immediate, personal- and thus a recognition that vaunted scientific 'objectivity' or analytic 'view from nowhere' is an accomplishment, not originary, nor phenomenological. this is not anti-science, this recognizes, and for some thinkers, is an aspiration for human reality. this is like idealism but beyond, and though i am not a lapsed mathematician, or think in mathematical logic, this for me is the most fruitful of all styles of philosophy...


180614 first review: i bought this book several years ago, 2009, after i had already read much phenomenology, i had read Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Merleau-Ponty, after the intro and reader by Moran (best possible intro to phenomenology), but in moving apartments just discovered this book again, so finally read it, 2014. why the gap i do not know. this text inspires me to examine three related aspects of my method, my motivation, my rating, which i can only hope to offer in this brief non-academic review. first, there is the question of my pedagogical method. second, there is the question of my motivation. third, there is the question of my assessment of this work...


first, as far as method throughout my readings of philosophy, the answer is simple and deceptive: there is no method. or rather, from the beginning, years ago, after a survey course at u, my philosophical interests were in hibernation for many years. there were other concerns. once, during a very bad time, I came across Being and Nothingness by Sartre. following the promising blurb, having only some vague knowledge of his significance, having read at least one play by him, No Exit, one novel, Nausea, I bought it and eagerly attempted it without guidance and without a net. this did not solve my life. I did read enough of it, understand enough of it, that virtually all philosophy read since must first be compared to Sartrean morality. you know, absolute freedom however bad the situation may be, recognition of a schism between the for- and in-itself, the temptations of bad faith versus the values of authenticity, the constant presence of angst, this from desperate distraction from our inevitable and very personal death, etc... anyway, this gave me much to think about. my original pleasure through philosophy was stimulated by once reading Kant, by the sheer pleasure of his ideas of categories, sensibilities, most of all the difference between phenomena and noumena... but my sense of immediate practical use in moral behaviour is definitely Sartre. so when, after another very bad time, I went for refuge not so much in Buddhist teachings, but here, in philosophy, the style I found most engaging was not analytic, not linguistic, not structuralist or post-, or postmodern, but this: phenomenology. it took me a while, took a few books, to discover this for myself. and to feel it was a valid choice, to decide that it meant more to me than any other style, and in particular discovered a new favourite philosopher and orientation within the broader stream of continental philosophy, within phenomenology: Maurice Merleau-Ponty... and so, a certain pedagogical logic arose from this immediate experience of reading him, thus wanting to read more of him, thus wanting to read who he refers to, who they refer to, etc... so I have come to read the philosophers here examined in this book...


second, as to motivation, the answer is more complex and I am unsure it is consistently one or several at any given moment: I like to read philosophy, particularly phenomenology. it is some years since I studied at u, it is some years since I ever had operative or utilitarian sort of motivation, it is some years since there was ever pressing concern to justify to myself or anyone else, my love of philosophy. or, at least, my love of phenomenology as explored by Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty. you may have noticed, by now, that in writing this review I am using the personal pronoun and offering biographical allusions which are obscure if not irrelevant. this is not in error. this is because, in the question of motivation, there is here as in much of life should be, only one final arbiter: my pleasure. if this strikes an uncomfortable hedonistic cast on the entire noble project of engaging and trying to understand our worlds and/or universe(s) through rigorous application of human reason, well I did say it is complex divining my motives. for if I say pleasure, how much is that I enjoy having these different thoughts, how much in sharing them, how much is perhaps falsely comforting myself that I understand this or that idea, how much is that ideally this knowledge will impress this woman or that man, and why. and finally but inherent in all pleasures, is the joy of sharing, the joy of trying to teach, the joy of how this reflects something of the core of my being, which is the moral value of sharing. I am not alone, I am not entirely self centred, I am not somehow better for knowing this or that. hedonistic only goes so far. for my father, yes he can recognize the simple pleasures of intellectual experience. for my mother, this is fine but really I should recognize I am much more attractive when I am not pompous, and anyway I should eat more vegetables. for my friends, most of them artists, well everybody has their own source however difficult it is to imagine it really is these words, those dry texts, rather than the more usual sensuous experience of a really good book/film/song/poem/video/artwork of any sort...


third, why do I rate this so highly. on reflection, looking at the books of philosophy on my favourites shelf, I discover that in many cases they are introductory, easy to read, often on rather than by certain authors, not necessarily great tomes like tent poles over various less impressive works. and then, several are sort of applications of the ideas of some thinkers rather than critical engagement with ideas offered. this is fine. that some books are not so simple, that some await perhaps vainly for a substantive review, that some are less than entirely examined as if my interest were academic and my life is dedicated to convincing others that I through him or her, am right in thinking, am not deluded or mistaken in my understanding, such is a misunderstanding of both the first and second answer. that I might find myself reassessing and rejecting or finding some other way of knowledge, say religion or logical positivism's varied descendants, in positive science or scientism, is possible but not very likely. again, I must suggest this is down to the biographical details of my life, as much as they have determined what I have read, have determined how I have read, have influenced me in many ways. I rate this one book so highly because it seems clear, easy to read, eschews much jargon, does not ask the reader to adopt provisional and difficult background ideas, whatever the outcome of such and such arguments, and this to me is all very well outlined even in this necessarily introductory writing. I have offered this to my father the scientist, as it is much easier say than James' New French Philosophy- which he had found on skimming, very opaque- but this could just be me thinking it is clear and simple, precisely because I have read so much of these phenomenologists...


so here is a list of the chapters:

1) introduction: philosophy of mind, cognitive science, and phenomenology

2) methodologies

3) consciousness and self-consciousness

4) time

5) perception

6) intentionality

7) the embodied mind

8) action and agency

9) how we know others

10) self and person

11) conclusion


there you go. as with all the other thoughts on motivation, this book ranks high because it inspires the act of philosophizing, as those other intros do, and, again, this is something I love to do. this would not be somehow more real if I achieved an objective evaluation, not simply because this is a review and not a paper, for such would be contrary to the entire spirit of this style of thought, this insistence on the primordial, the originary, the subjective impression or intuition, that insists the way to be in the universe is to be in-the-world. here this is only intro, here is only my non-professional reading, here is only subjective and thus truthful appreciation. this by its very being, demonstrates the pleasure of reading philosophy. I love to philosophize. your choice...

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