International Studies in Phenomenology and Philosophy

Journal | Issue | Article

Phenomenology as philosophical method

Giovanni Piana

pp. 183-204

Against the background of Gestalt psychology, the author argues that the phenomenological method is not a generic plea for philosophical innocence or the appeal to a conscious dismantling of every kind of unconscious prejudices, but rather the uncovering of a set of well-determined opinions, with precise theoretical consequences, mostly inspired by psychological associationism. The theoretical core of phenomenology as a philosophical method (distinguished from preliminary stages of psychological research) and Husserl’s attempt to use it for responding to the appeals and tensions of his historical moment have therefore to be sharply distinguished. For Husserl, the problem of method became entangled with ethical tasks, while phenomenology took more and more the shape of a philosophy of subjectivity, until the idea of phenomenology was presented as the only answer to the concept of crisis. While the rhetoric of the crisis gets poorer the more it is iterated outside of its historical horizon, the theoretical core of phenomenology as a method can be grasped in its validity only beyond it as the analytic task driven by a theory of the intentionality of conscious acts. In the line of this analytic interpretation of phenomenology, the first goal of philosophy is bringing order into thinking: phenomenology is a – rather complex and sophisticated – intuitionistic method. In this respect, intuition consists in a method to trace modes of being by describing structural modes of manifestation. The goal is not to describe phenomenological givens, but phenomenological rules or structures: it is to sketch a phenomenologically grounded ontology. Accordingly, philosophical analysis deals with the process of “concept formation” from the inner structures of experience up to more independent idealities, from general regularities that are directly graspable in the configuration of what is given to more abstract concepts.

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