Friday, February 06, 2015

Interesting conference on Husserl's transcendental turn: "The Great Phenomenological Schism"

Call for papers: "The Great Phenomenological Schism: Reactions to Husserl's Transcendental Idealism" (Philosophia Perennis, February 6, 2015). Venue is Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico City, June 3-6th, 2015. Submission deadline is Feb. 20th.


Robert Allen


Dear PP,

On the Feast of the IC last year I had a wonderful experience. My wife and I were heartened to see that a very young priest, whom we'd never seen before, was saying Mass (at St. Josaphat). He proceeded to give us a great homily, which contained the memorable line 'You guys have been spoiled rotten by the Father.' After Mass, I went up to him and told him how much I liked his homily, especially that line. 'Dr. Allen,' he exclaimed: he had been a student of mine at UDM. (Good thing they've reinforced our steeple or my ego would have shot right through it.) We began excitedly talking about his vocation and he eventually mentioned that he was now studying Husserl. (I'd taught his class, which consisted of 3 young men, Aristotle.) So, when I got home, I took my aging, but still youthful, copy of Ideas off of the shelf. But then I immediately thought, 'Wait a minute. You still haven't finished Fesser, you've got all kinds of great articles from the St. Anselm journal yet to study, Professor Gerson is finally making sense of Platonism for you, and then there is your obsession with the work of George Bernanos- where the @#$% are you going to find time for Husserl?' Which reflection morphed into the question, Why should I ever study Husserl? He's not Catholic and the phenomenological method is Cartesian, hence anti-Thomistic. I know that he has some interesting things to say about intentionality, but we already have the Doctor Angelicus for that. So could you please explain to me why I shouldn't just leaves good old Ideas resting comfortably next to its unholy spawn Sein und Zeit (which I have also been promising myself to read for 35 years)?



Pertinacious Papist


Ha-ha!! Good to hear from you Dr. Allen. I've had similar thoughts myself at times when I've picked up a book out of my field and wondered where I'd find the time to read it and do it justice.

My canned answer to students who walk into my office and ask, "Have you read ALL these books???" is "Some of them twice." Which, of course, is true! But It's dawned on me long ago that I'll never get to others of them substantially even once.

As to Husserl, I've read Ideas I, but my chief interest in this conference would be in the responses to his transcendental idealist "turn" in precisely that book (ca. 1913). I say "responses," because that is also a "turn" I could not follow, if I understand it correctly. There are some, like Msgr. Sokolowski at CUA, who insist that the later Husserl has not broken his life line to realism and a possible metaphysical grounding; but I'm inclined to demur. I would agree with the Lublin Thomists that phenomenology can be done with proper metaphysical grounding, and I think elements of this can be seen in Von Hildebrand, Wojtyla, Stein, etc. In fact Edit Stein has a wonderful little book, an imaginary dialogue between Husserl and St. Thomas Aquinas, which she wrote, which is interesting.

Still, our bread and butter lie with the open-ended system gifted to us by the Angelic Doctor, certainly. And the open-ended-ness is what permits its on-going pertinence to issues as the continue to develop today.

Pertinaciously yours,