Phenomenology, Reality and Essences (Online, November 16-17, 2023)

Deadline: 31.07.2023

In phenomenology, a standard way to make claims about reality is through the identification of invariant features of and in experience, traditionally called “essences”. Phenomenology as essence intuition, eidetic variation or eidetic reduction raises fundamental questions concerning, among other things, the ontological structure of reality, the status of essences, their normativity, the relationship to empirical sciences and the nature of the phenomenological a priori in general.

This conference has two aims: (1) To establish a fuller picture of the manifold ways in which essence intuition has been understood by phenomenologists historically. How was phenomenology as an eidetic science conceived in and especially outside of Husserl’s writings? (2) To inquire if the idea of essence intuition, broadly construed, might still be considered a viable way of doing phenomenology, especially in light of recent interdisciplinary developments in various fields of phenomenology.

Ad (1): A special focus will be on proponents of early phenomenology such as Hedwig Conrad-Martius, who has developed a Realontologie, and Edith Stein, who combined eidetics with classical metaphysical concepts such potency and act. Further relevant phenomenologists in this regard include Gerda Walther, Adolf Reinach and Roman Ingarden among others. What claims about reality did these early phenomenologists make, and what methods were employed to justify them?

Ad (2): The second point of interest concerns the plausibility and usefulness of the phenomenology of essences. What role might an eidetic method play in respect to more recent interdisciplinary endeavors working on the intersection between phenomenology, cognitive sciences, neuroscience or the philosophy of mind? How do situated approaches such as critical phenomenology respond to an eidetic method?

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